Skip to main content

Full text of "Orthodoxy in massachusetts 1630 1950"

See other formats



FEB 19 


- J 


Perry Miller was born in Chicago in 1905. He received a 
Ph.B. in 1928 and a Ph.D. in 1931 from the University of 
Chicago. He began his long association with the Harvard 
University faculty in 1931, becoming professor of American 
literature in 1946. During World War II he served as a cap- 
tain and then as a major with the U. S. Army, E.T.O. He has 
taught at Leiden University, Netherlands, and Tokyo Univer- 
sity, Japan, and has served as a member of the Institute of 
Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. At present he lives 
and teaches in Cambridge, Mass. 

Among the author's other books are THE PURITANS (with 
T. H. Johnson), THE NEW ENGLAND MIND (2 volumes), 


Orthodoxy In Massachusetts 




Copyright, 1933 
By the President and Fellows of Harvard College 

Preface, 195Q 
By Perry Miller 

First published as a Beacon Paperback in 1959 
by arrangement with the Harvard University Press 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-10735 
Printed in the United States of America 




PERHAPS the greatest pleasure of scholarship, from 
the standpoint of the student, is the long list of 
friends he acquires by the simple process of making 
them his benefactors. Of this long list I wish in partic- 
ular to memorialize the various important contribu- 
tions of Professors Percy Holmes Eoynton, Napier 
Wilt, T. V. Smith, and William E. Dodd of the Univer- 
sity of Chicago, Professors Kenneth Ballard Murdock, 
Samuel Eliot Morison, and Francis Otto Matthiessen of 
Harvard University, and Professor Stanley T. Williams 
of Yale University. To the Library of Yale University I 
am indebted for access to the Dexter Collection, to the 
Boston Public Library for access to the Prince Collec- 
tion, to the Congregational Library of Boston for gen- 
erously placing at my disposal its remarkable collection 
of seventeenth century tracts, and to Mr. Julius H. 
Tuttle and to the Massachusetts Historical Society for 
much valuable assistance. Mr. D. H. Mugridge offered 
very helpful criticism and Mr. Raymond P. Stearns 
helped materially with the Dutch backgrounds. With- 
out the aid of Mr. Alfred Stern and Mrs. Moise Dreyfus 
this research could never have been undertaken. And 
finally I am indebted to my wife for a vast amount of 
patient labor, without which the volume could never 
have materialized. 


October i, 1933 












INDEX 321 


UPON the verge of publication I am fully conscious 
that in the work to be offered I have treated in 
a somewhat cavalier fashion certain of the most cher- 
ished conventions of current historiography. I have at- 
tempted to tell of a great folk movement with an utter 
disregard of the economic and social factors. I lay my- 
self open to the charge of being so very naive as to be- 
lieve that the way men think has some influence upon 
their actions, of not remembering that these ways of 
thinking have been officially decided by modern psy- 
chologists to be generally just so many rationalizations 
constructed by the subconscious to disguise the pursuit 
of more tangible ends. 

In part I might take refuge behind the contention 
that a specialized study is, after all, specialized, that 
other aspects of the story can easily be found in other 
works. The field of intellectual or religious history may, 
I presume, be considered as legitimate a field for re- 
search and speculation as that of economic and political. 
But I am prepared actually to waive such a defense and 
hazard the thesis that whatever may be the case in other 
centuries, in the sixteenth and seventeenth certain men 
of decisive importance took religion seriously; that they 
often followed spiritual dictates in comparative disre- 
gard of ulterior considerations; that those who led the 
Great Migration to Massachusetts and who founded the 


colony were predominantly men of this stamp. It has 
not been part of my conscious intention either to de- 
fend or to blame them, to praise or to condemn their 
achievement. I have simply endeavored to demonstrate 
that the narrative of the Bay Colony's early history can 
be strung upon the thread of an idea. 

Immediately this statement is made I encounter such 
authoritative rebuttal as that of Mr. James Truslow 
Adams, who in "The Founding of New England has ex- 
pressed his conviction that "four out of five*' immi- 
grants had no particular sympathy with the ecclesias- 
tical aspirations of the leaders and submitted to the 
regime of the elders for the sake of free land and eco- 
nomic opportunity. For those who desire more detailed 
discussion on the value of this hackneyed statement of 
proportions I commend the delightful appendix to Pro- 
fessor Samuel Eliot Morison's Builders of the Bay Colony. 
No one, of course, can doubt that the hope of material 
advantage played a tremendous part in tempting 
people to colonial shores and in shaping their life in the 
new scenes. I do not venture to determine in exactly 
what ratio the two sorts of motives operated in New 
England, but I do believe the story as I have offered it 
must be considered prerequisite to the forming of any 
just and full estimate. 

Hitherto any such complete estimate of the colony's 
religious life has encountered two principal obstacles 
which it has been my hope to level. First, there has 
been, so far as I can discover, no concerted attempt to 
realize the continuity of thought extending from the 
initial stages of English Puritanism to the peculiar in- 


stitutions of New England. By and large, American his- 
torians have begun their studies with the landing upon 
these coasts, and they have almost taken for granted 
what the textbooks pronounce to have been the intel- 
lectual baggage already at hand. Undoubtedly the 
crucial moment in the religious history of Massachusetts 
was the founding of the church at Salem in 1629. Let us 
look at the histories. One after another they have 
stumbled over the seeming inconsistencies of a people 
who in England emphatically proclaimed that they were 
not Separatists and who yet in America apparently 
turned precisely about and adopted the ecclesiastical 
discipline of schismatics. To them the obvious explana- 
tion has always seemed to be the influence of Plymouth. 
If this be true, then indeed how can we have much re- 
spect for the intellectual development of these people 
when they did not seem to know where they stood or 
what they wanted, when the determination of their 
gravest problem lay at the chance mercy of a medical 
visit from Deacon Fuller? But if, on the other hand, the 
action at Salem can be seen to be the outcome of a long 
and matured program, the deliberate achievement of an 
objective deliberately sought after, then the religious 
history of the Massachusetts Colony is seen in an en- 
tirely different light. Then we need a new interpretation, 
which, in explaining the founding of the church of Salem 
and the other early churches, will not have to take refuge 
in citing the mystical declaration of Scotch Baillie that 
"the free aire of a new world " suddenly inspired the 
settlers to cast off the shackles of episcopacy. The Con- 
gregational polity resulted from an elaborate prepara- 


tion; it was based upon a complex body of Biblical 
exegesis that could not be mastered on a single voyage, 
long as voyages then were. However free the "aire" 
of a new world might be, it could not at once offer what 
seemed to be an authoritative explanation for Matthew 
xviii: 17, or for any other of the texts upon which the 
organization was based. 

The new interpretation, then, has had to begin far 
back in the previous century. It has had to distinguish 
the various intellectual streams and trace them to their 
convergence in the single pool of New England ortho- 
doxy. It has had, at perhaps too great a length, to insist 
that the ecclesiastical issues as they existed in Eng- 
land in 1630 be defined as much as possible from a con- 
temporary point of view. In the course of its researches 
into " background " the study has offered at least one 
"new" contribution to New England's history: it has 
presented a certain school of ecclesiastical thinkers as 
the specific source of the New England Way, and by 
analyzing the thought of this school has endeavored to 
depict what was the actual inheritance of John Cotton 
and his colleagues. Though I fear that Chapter IV 
makes dreary reading, still the metaphysics I have 
therein attempted to describe seems to me fundamental 
to any right comprehension of what the leaders and at 
least a large number of the settlers of Massachusetts 
and Connecticut considered their raison d'etre. And I 
hasten to add that this "discovery" of what I believe 
to be the keystone of New England thought is not en- 
tirely original with me; the germinal idea I found in Pro- 
fessor George Lyman Kittredge's short "Note on Dr. 


William Ames" * and in the pages of that excellent work, 
Champlin Burrage's Early English Dissenters in the 
Light of Recent Research. My work has in reality been a 
development of the hints I have received from these 

The second quarrel I have with many of my prede- 
cessors has been over what seems to be their inveterate 
tendency to discuss the history of early Massachusetts 
from points of view which, however stimulating, are 
relevant only to their own particular time. Here I part 
company with those writers, generally ministers, whom 
Mr. Adams has placed in " a less critical day/' as well as 
with 'the economic and social historians of the type of 
which Mr. Adams is himself an eminent example. The 
New England student of the nineteenth century, raised 
in the tradition of the land, has done admirable work; 
and this volume could never have been written without 
the aid supplied by Henry Martyn Dexter's The Con- 
gregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years and 
Williston Walker's The Creeds and Platforms of Congre- 
gationalism. But quite naturally such men have seen 
the events of the past primarily in reference to their own 
present; they have praised what they thought good and 
palliated what they thought bad. And they have ever 
felt called upon to justify; they have had no desire to 
throw over their preoccupations in order to see seven- 
teenth century issues merely with the eyes of seven- 
teenth century men. Mr. Adams, however, has gone to 
another extreme. Setting aside the creed and the plat- 
form as the queer monomania of one fifth of the colony, 

i. Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications , xm, 60-69. 


he too has always passed judgment, but in his case in the 
name of the enlightened insight of modern social science. 
In the latter chapters of my work, having previously 
tried to ascertain what were the religious objectives of 
the settlers, I have wished to illustrate the directions in 
which the realization was sought, what problems were 
encountered, and what changes in the philosophy were 
wrought by success or failure. For that reason I have 
allowed the men themselves to speak as often as possible 
and perhaps overlarded my text with quotations. 
There are not, I believe, any particular factual novelties 
in these portions, but I hope that the new orientation 
will make some contribution to a more complete realiza- 
tion of what New England " Puritanism" meant at 
least in the beginning. 


In 1928, as a graduate student at the University 
of Chicago, I unaccountably found John Winthrop's 
Journal exerting upon me a baneful spell. I resisted 
manfully, as long as I could, but Governor Winthrop 
irresistibly lured me to the brink of commitment, and 
so I threw myself from the precipice of twentieth- 
century prejudice into the maelstrom of his epoch. 

One of my most revered instructors tried to pre- 
vent me. This, he said, was an ignis fatuus. All the 
hay of New England Puritanism had been threshed. 
I would wreck my career, even before it commenced, 
crawling through the dry stubble hoping to pick up 
stray gleanings. 

His counsel was generous and, furthermore, seemed 
at that time the soul of prudence. Some perversity of 
temper would not let me yield. Another beloved teacher, 
Percy Holmes Boynton, encouraged me to risk the try. 
Without him, I would have faltered. As I now look 
back on that academic drama, I realize that he was 
working on the principle which always rsade his tuition 
exciting : namely, that a student should be given enough 
rope to hang himself, if this he was resolved to do. 
Wherefore I dedicated the book to him. Wherefore 
I have endeavored to accord the same privilege to my 
own students. 

Having been offered by the Beacon Press the oppor- 


cherish this tale with a zeal comparable to that of 
treasuring the story of George Washington and the 
cherry tree. 

This kind of obstinacy has, I am happy to say, weak- 
ened with the passing of a generation brought up to 
regard the Fuller legend as gospel truth. A more 
serious problem is the rise of a new anti-intellectualism 
no longer a Menckenesque hatred of the kill-joy 
Puritan, but rather a sullen hostility to the entire 
notion that ideas ever have consequences. From this 
derives the supposition that in the highly self-selected 
Great Migration the rank-and-file would not have had 
the wits to comprehend the exquisite theories of Cotton 
and Hooker, of Winthrop and The Cambridge Plat- 
form. I have shown myself the last to deny that the 
elaborate scheme of ideas imported in 1630 underwent 
rapid and often astonishing transformations, as it be- 
came adjusted to the unpredictabilities of the wilder- 
ness. But those who strive, as to me it seems they do, 
to escape all concept of the mind by playing down the 
majesty and coherence of Puritan thinking, level a 
barrage against early New England infinitely more 
Philistine not to say more historically inaccurate 
than the comparatively innocent fulminations in the 
1920's of Mencken and James Truslow Adams. 

The edition of 1933 contained a long "Bibliog- 
raphy." At that time, many of the titles were not 
familiar in American scholarship. Also, I wished to 
show off my erudition. Both these incentives are for- 
tunately no longer operative. I am therefore replacing 


that list with a selective inventory of basic items, in- 
cluding later studies which have extended insights I 
chanced to attain in 1933. I have run original sources 
and secondary treatments into an alphabetical sequence, 
since all of these are equally essential for anyone who 
would undertake further exploration. A full bibliog- 
raphy of both sorts appears in my and Thomas John- 
son's The Puritans (1938). For titles thereafter, 
either of books or articles, the student can most expe- 
ditiously consult the review sections and the annual 
bibliographies of The New England Quarterly. 


Cambridge, Massachusetts 
February, 1959 



CONSIDERED purely in its legalistic aspects, Henry 
VIII's " reformation ** of the Church of England 
was a relatively simple affair. A legislative enactment 
sufficed to prohibit appeals to Rome, because "by 
divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles** it 
appeared the body spiritual of the realm was sufficient 
unto 'itself. 1 While the Pope was being ruled out the 
King was read in. At first, in 1531, the clergy surmised 
that he was supreme head of the Church " quantum per 
Christi legem licet'*; 2 then after three years of Henry's 
coaxing they unhesitatingly called him "the only su- 
preme heed in erthe of the Churche of England.** 3 
Convocation and Parliament soon passed such legisla- 
tion as was required to remove the last vestiges of Papal 
control, and Parliament in 1536 placed the final seal 
upon its work by enacting that the oath of supremacy 
be taken by all subjects. 4 

The apparent simplicity of these manoeuvers is, how- 
ever, deceptive. Henry's assertion of a princely control 
over the Church was not entirely an inspiration of the 

1. Henry Gee and William John Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English 
Church History, pp. 187-188. 

2. Felix Makower, Constitutional History and Constitutions of the Church of 
England,, pp. 49, 252 n. 2. 

3. //</., pp. 55-56, 252 n. 4. 

4. Ibid., pp. 51-52, 253; Gee and Hardy, op. cit., p. 197. 


moment. Pope and Emperor in the Middle Ages had 
been theoretically partners in the task of maintaining 
the Church in unity both of doctrine and of ritual, for 
which reason the Emperor had been expected to wield a 
sword against heretics and schismatics. 1 When the Em- 
pire began to fade, kings took the imperial role; and, 
reversing the maxim divide et impera, kings obtained for 
themselves a greater power over the Church than the 
Emperor ever enjoyed. For two hundred years before 
Henry VIII princes had been striving for the right to 
appoint bishops, had been curtailing ecclesiastical courts 
and combating Papal interference in their government 
as the Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire illus- 
trate. Henry's reformation gained for England hardly 
any more independence than France secured without 
officially breaking from Rome. By merely extending the 
powers of ecclesiastical supervision that they already 
possessed, princes of reformed countries, or town 
councils of the cities, were eminently fitted to become 
the virtual and, if necessary, the titular governors of 
their churches. They might take the step in various 
fashions and go to various lengths, but in each instance 
they went upon the assumption that a ruler was duty 
bound to protect, encourage, and oversee the church of 
his land. The principle of cuju s regio, ejus religio did not 
for a moment imply the allowance of dissenting church 
organizations within the national frontiers. "The key 
to the political thought of the time," says Professor 
Mcllwain, "is the fact that all men still held the me- 
dieval conception of the necessity of uniformity, though 

i. Gee and Hardy, op. cit. t pp. 231, 242-244. 


diversity had in fact come into existence/' * The larger 
medieval conception of all Europe welded into a vast 
whole was shattered, but within the nations there was a 
complete carry-over of the medieval philosophy of 
unity. By the joining of Church and Commonwealth 
under the civil power, it seemed that the ancient an- 
tagonism of the spiritual and temporal was to be recon- 
ciled forever. The Church, by being resolved into com- 
pact national units, was at last to thrive as Isaiah had 
predicted, under the loving care of " nursing fathers and 
nursing mothers/' 2 

The princes' endeavor to bring the Church under 
their sceptres was heartily encouraged by the leaders of 
the Reformation. The rulers not only rendered service 
as patrons or protectors, or by holding over-zealous fol- 
lowers in check, but their very existence was necessary 
to Protestant theology. With their revolt against " sal- 
vation by works" the reformers brought a renewed em- 
phasis upon the doctrine of original sin. Society to them 
could, therefore, be only another example of human de- 
pravity. If men gave the reins to every natural im- 
pulse, declared Calvin, " there would certainly not be an 
individual in the world, whose actions would not evince 
all the crimes " of which human nature is capable. 3 
Man, therefore, had to be subjected to earthly powers, 
and magistracy was an institution of the just Divinity 
Himself. Luther, recoiling from the Peasants' Revolt, 
cried that the sword of the worldly power would always 

1. Political Works of James /, p. xvii. 

2. J. W. Allen, The History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century, 
pp. 13-14. . 

3. Institutes, bk. n, chap, in, par. 3. 


have to be red and bloody because the world would ever 
be wicked. 1 Obedience to the magistrate, taught Cal- 
vin, should be profound, sincere, and voluntary, "be- 
cause the obedience which is rendered to princes and 
magistrates is rendered to God, from whom they have 
received their authority/* "It is impossible/' he con- 
tinued, "to resist the magistrate without, at the same 
time, resisting God himself/* 2 Indeed, resistance was 
wrong even if the ruler were heathen or tyrannical. 
"Those who rule in an unjust and tyrannical manner are 
raised up by Him to punish the iniquity of the people/* 3 
If the fact that the Emperor did wrong, wrote Luther to 
the Elector of Saxony in 1530, were a reason why sub- 
jects might revolt against him, there would be an end 
to government in this world, "for every subject could 
allege that his ruler was acting against God/' 4 

The reformers' position may easily be explained. In 
all religious leaders in the sixteenth century there is 
no characteristic more pronounced than their several 
convictions that the revolt from Rome was neither to 
stop short of their own particular position nor to be 
carried beyond it. When unable to direct Christendom, 
they contented themselves with striving to mould the 
national religions closer to their hearts' desires. They 
held that the character of mankind necessitated control, 
and their original bias toward unity was accentuated 
by the motives which had inspired the religious insur- 

1 . Werke^ xv, 302. 

2. Institutes^ bk. iv, chap, xx, pars. 22, 23. 

3. Ibid., par. 25; Allen, op. ctt., p. 10, chap. iv. 

4. Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters^ ed. Preserved 
Smith and Charles Jacob, n, 519-520. 


rection. The Deity Himself had commanded that all 
men's thoughts be turned toward redemption, and had 
prescribed certain ways and means. The Church could 
not accomplish this unaided by civil authority. The 
reformers envisaged a simple and plausible arrangement 
wherein they, the professional experts in Biblical knowl- 
edge, should teach the State its duties, and the State 
should silence contradiction. The highest function of 
the State, therefore, was the loving care of the Church, 
the maintenance of its external being in uniformity 
throughout the kingdom, and the physical support of its 
censures. In order that no reformed government should 
ever hesitate, the Institutes provided explicit instruc- 
tions; civil government, we are told, exists 

to cherish and support the external worship of God, to preserve the 
pure doctrine of religion, to defend the constitution of the church, to 
regulate our lives in a manner requisite for the society of men, to 
form our manners to civil justice, to promote our concord with each 
other, and to establish general peace and tranquillity. ... Its 
objects also are that idolatry, sacrileges against the name of 
God, blasphemies against his truth, and other offenses against 
religion, may not openly appear and be disseminated among the 
people. 1 

In those countries whose religious inspiration was Gene- 
van, this version of the theory was almost automatically 
incorporated into every creed: the Scotch Confession of 
1560, for example, affirmed that "to Kings, Princes, 
Rulers and Magistrates . . . chieflie and most princi- 
pallie the conservation and purgation of the Religion 
apperteinis, so that not onlie they are appointed for 
Civill policie, bot also for maintenance of the trew Re- 

i. Bk. iv, chap, xx, pars. 2, 3. 


ligioun." x But even before Calvin's heyday the English 
Reformation had recognized these same principles. The 
King had assumed the actual headship, and had thereby 
become, in the words of the great Genevan himself, a 
person whom God had commissioned "to serve as his 
lieutenant in ordering and maintaining the kingdom of 
Jesus Christ in England/' 2 The Act of Supremacy was 
an assertion of the monarch's responsibility for the wel- 
fare of the Church, his duty of reforming its abuses and 
punishing its adversaries, and was completely in accord 
with the ruling assumption of the century. Its objec- 
tives were sanctioned by the past and blessed by con- 
temporary theory. The act, said Stephen Gardiner, 
wrought "no newely invented matter/' but only in- 
tended "to haue the power perteinyng to a prince by 
Goddes lawe to be the more clearely expressed/' 3 

This civil supremacy was, consequently, the one thing 
in the ecclesiastical situation that could be taken for 
granted when Protestant Elizabeth succeeded her 
Catholic sister in 1558. Her clergy were agreed upon no 
definite policy, and Elizabeth herself was concerned 
only that they should accommodate themselves to her 
political ambitions. They could all agree that whatever 
else was to happen, the sovereign should once more be- 
come "defender of the faith/' The faith itself could be 
defined later. So were passed the Acts of Supremacy and 
Uniformity, which, in as broad and inclusive a fashion 
as possible, incorporated the characteristic Protestant 

1. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, in, 475. 

2. Letters of John Calvin, ed. Jules Bonnet, n, 340. 

3. Stephen Gardiner, Obedience in Church and State, pp. 91-93. 


theory of State and Church into the Church of England. 
With the Papal power once more expelled, all ecclesiasti- 
cal authority, which had hitherto been used to reform 
the Church and correct errors, heresies, and schisms, was 
declared to be "for ever, by authority of this present 
Parliament . . . united and annexed to the imperial 
crown of this realm." * Officers in both State and 
Church were to swear upon oath that the Queen was the 
only supreme ruler, "as well in all spiritual or ecclesias- 
tical things or causes, as temporal." a The ruler was no 
longer designated the "supreme head" but "supreme 
governor" of the Church: this phrase was more accept- 
able to both Catholics and Protestants, since, Burghley 
explained, the Crown thereby showed it was not chal- 
lenging "authority and power of ministry of divine 
offices in the church," 3 but Bishop Parkhurst's laconic 
comment was that the title of governor " amounts to the 
same thing." 4 The Act of Uniformity required min- 
isters and laymen to use only the forms of the Book of 
Common Prayer; it exacted church attendance from all 
persons, and instructed the Church to execute "this 
good and wholesome law." 5 In order that there might 
be no mistake, Elizabeth issued her Injunctions in June, 
1559, "intending the advancement of the true honour 
of Almighty God, the suppression of superstition 
throughout all her highness's realms and dominions, and 

1. Gee and Hardy, op. cit. y pp. 442-446, 447. 

2. I bid., p. 449. 

3. I bid., pp. 438-439; W. H. Frere, 'The English Church in the Reigns of 
Elizabeth and James I, p. 39. 

4. Zurich Letters^ i, 29. 

5. Gee and Hardy, op. '/., pp. 458-467. 


to plant true religion to the extirpation of all hypocrisy, 
enormities and abuses (as to her duty appertaineth)." r 
After recalling that "the queen's power within her 
realms and dominions is the highest power under God/' 
she told the clergy to wear the garments that were pre- 
scribed, commanded her subjects to go to church on 
Sundays and to "forbear all vain and contentious dis- 
putations in matters of religion." 2 When a petition 
from the Continent asked indulgence for advocates of 
more extreme reformation, she replied in words that 
epitomize the whole situation: "It was not with her 
safety, honour, and credit, to permit diversity of opin- 
ions in a kingdom where none but she and her council 
governed." 3 

The policy thus enunciated continued to be basic in 
Elizabeth's government. For reasons of state the Queen 
might temporarily compound with dissenters, but she 
never lost sight of the ultimate ideal of uniformity. 
There were some, she declared in 1602, who insinuated 
that she had a purpose to grant a toleration of two re- 
ligions in her domain. God, however, could not only 
witness "our innocency from such imagination, but how 
far it hath been from any about us to offer to our ears the 
persuasion of such a course, as would not only disturb 
the peace of the Church, but bring this our State into 
Confusion/' 4 The Stuarts continued her policy. "I 
will haue one Doctrine and one discipline," announced 

1. Ibid., pp. 418-419. 

2. Ibid., pp. 432, 434, 435-436. 

3. John Strype, Annals oj the Reformation (Oxford, 1824), vol. i, pt. I, p. 128. 

4. As quoted in Roland Green Usher, Reconstruction of the English Church^ i, 


James, "one Religion in substance, and in ceremonie," r 
and his son was brought up to expect the same una- 

Quite naturally, therefore, the apologists for the 
Church fully adhered to these political tenets. They, 
too, accounted the magistracy of divine authorship. 
"Princes are placed by God, and so not to bee displaced 
by men: and subiectes threatned damnation by Gods 
own mouth if they resist/' 2 Obedience to princes was 
still a duty, "yea, though they be wicked/' 3 Kings, 
said the jyth Article, were to rule "all estates and de- 
grees committed to their charge by God, whether they 
be Ecclesiastical or no;" 4 and they were to have care 
of the Church, "for princes are nursing fathers of the 
church, and keepers of both tables. Neither for any 
greater cause hath God willed governments to exist, 
than that there might be always some to maintain and 
preserve religion and piety/' 5 Assuredly, then, they 
should enforce the religious uniformity required by the 
Acts of 1559: "It must bee a consideration of great con- 
sequence, to further (by an absolute vnitie) the true 
Religion: no examples being suffered that doe lead from 
it/' 6 The words "Compell them to come in*' were 
spoken "to Christian Princes, and are to them both a 
warrant and a charge to represse schismes and heresies 

1. William Barlow, The Svmme and Svbstance of the Conference (1604), p. 71. 

2. Thomas Bilson, The Trve Difference betweene Christian svbiection and 
unchristian rebellion (1585), sig. A5, recto. 

3. John Jewel, "An Apology of the Church of England" (1564), Works 
(Parker Society, 1848), in, 74. 

4. Edward Cardwell, Synodaha, i, 71. 

5. Jewel, "Epistle to Scipio," Works ^ iv, 1125-1126. 

6. William Covell, A Modest and reasonable examination (1604), p. 197. 


with their Princely power, which they receiued from 
aboue." r To argue that ecclesiastical and civil govern- 
ment cannot be united in the same person, said Whit- 
gift, is to spoil the civil magistrate "of the one half of his 
jurisdiction/* 2 Indeed, the head and front of Laud's 
offending was no more than an over-passionate alle- 
giance to this very creed: "The King's power is God's 
glory; and the honour of the subject is obedience to 
both/' 3 In the light of his heritage he could see no 
alternative to the maintenance of religious unity: 
"Break unity once, and farewell strength." 4 When he 
defended himself in 1644, he instanced his labors in the 
interests of this ideal as in themselves sufficient excuse 
for his acts, "being still of opinion, that unity cannot 
long continue in the Church, where uniformity is shut 
out at the church door." 5 

Against this orthodox political creed the Puritans 
were the last persons in the world to take exception. 
If we were to consider merely detached statements of 
abstract principle from the writers of the time we should 
be puzzled to distinguish one party from the other; 
the whole system can be constructed as easily out of the 
pages of the Nonconformists as from the works of the 
Anglicans. Cartwright, for instance, was at one with 
Archbishop Whitgift in holding that magistrates were 
lawful and necessary institutions, and he affirmed that 
his followers obeyed them "in the Lord, and for the 

1. Bilson, op. <r/V.,p. 132. 

2. John Whitgift, Works^ i, 21. 

3. William Laud, Works (Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology), i, 79. 

4. Ibid.y p. 66. 

5. I bid. > iv, 60. 


Lord/' J If the prince is wicked, said Udall, even if he 
commands things contrary to the word of God, his sub- 
jects are not to resist, "no, not so much as in thought: 
but with patience and humility to bear all the punish- 
ment laid upon them." 2 The Puritan party was no 
maintainer of "licentiousness and lewd liberty." 3 The 
authors of the Admonition wrote in 1572 that they ab- 
horred from the bottom of their hearts all those sects 
"which rejecte magistrates, despise aucthoritie, bringe 
in equalitie amonge all men, and woulde have all things 
in common and no man to be riche." 4 The principle of 
the Supremacy did not in itself run counter to Puritan 
views: Cartwright pleaded in 1596, in all honesty, that 
he had taken the oath five or six times, and that "if 
there be doubt of any change of my judgement, I am 
ready to take th'oth againe." s Indeed, he could not re- 
fuse, for he, no less than Whitgift, held that magistrates 
were necessary to the Church, " that the use of them is 
more than of the sun, without which the world cannot 
stand." 6 A magistrate was as much bound by Puritan 
as by Anglican theory "to see that the laws of God, 
touching his worship, and touching all matters and or- 
ders of the Church, be executed and duly observed, and 
to see that every ecclesiastical person do that office 
whereunto he is appointed, and to punish those which 
fail in their office accordingly." 7 Equally acceptable 

1. Cartwright, as quoted in Whitgift, Works ^ I, 79. 

2. Strype, Life and Acts of John Whitgift (Oxford, 1822), n, 98-100. 

3. Cartwright, op. '/., I, 77. 

4. A Seconde Parte of a Register, I, 87. 

5. A. F. Scott Pearson, 'Thomas Cartwright, p. 336, App. XXX. 

6. Cartwright, op. cit. , I, 20. 

7. Ibid., in, 295. 


was the principle of enforced uniformity. Puritans, too, 
demanded that church attendance be made compulsory 
and that heretics be put to death. 1 "If this be bloody 
and extreme/' declared Cartwright, " I am content to be 
so counted with the Holy Ghost/' 2 Travers's Full and 
plaine declaration which comes the nearest of any 
book to being the official platform of Elizabethan Puri- 
tanism required civil magistrates "to set in order 
and establish the state of the Church by their authority, 
and to preserue and maintaine it according to Gods will 
being once established/' 3 Sixty years of struggle did not 
bring to the Puritans, at the time of the migration to 
Massachusetts, any realization that this tenet should be 
questioned. English Puritans in Holland informed 
Charles I in 1628 that they had no wish to leave "every 
man to his owne liberty to use what Liturgie he 
pleaseth/' 4 One of the most violent foes the hierarchy 
ever raised up, William Prynne, was still quoting the old 
dogma in 1629: " Kings, and temporall Magistrates, 
ought to bee the chiefe Defenders and Patrons of Reli- 
gion; the suppressors of Haeresies, Idolatries, and false 
Doctrines: the principall Reformers of the Church/' 
This, he was truthfully affirming, "is the positiue Reso- 
lution of all the Fathers, of all Protestant (and I thinke 
of most Popish) Diuines." s 

1. A Seconde Parte of a Register, I, 169. 

2. Cartwright, op. cit. y i, 116. 

3. Walter Travers, A full and plaine declaration of Ecclesiastical! Discipline 
(Leyden, 1617), p. 103. 

4. Champlin Burrage, Early English Dissenters, n, 267. 

5. William Prynne, The Church of Englands old Antithesis to New Ar- 
minianisme (1629), sig. A3, recto. 



PROTESTANTISM, Troeltsch has said, "was, in the 
first place, simply a modification of Catholicism, in 
which the Catholic formulation of the problems was re- 
tained, while a different answer was given to them/' l 
Just as the revolt from Rome did not entail any break 
with the political assumptions of the medieval Church, 
so it did not escape in its thinking the felt necessity for a 
final and absolute authority. Catholicism had replied to 
the question of where men should seek the answers to 
their spiritual controversies by indicating the infallible 
Church; Protestantism, equally predisposed to require 
a supreme arbiter, pointed to the infallible Bible. Scrip- 
ture, said Calvin, "obtains the same complete credit and 
authority with believers ... as if they heard the very 
words pronounced by God himself." 2 Once we have 
accepted the word of God, "we are attracted and in- 
flamed to an understanding and voluntary obedience, 
but with a vigor and efficacy superior to the power of 
any human will or knowledge." 3 Before the bench of this 
incorruptible judge the reformers arraigned contem- 
porary society and found it wanting. Their long protest 
and violent reaction against the manifold abuses of the 

1. Ernst Troeltsch, Protestantism and Progress , p. 59. 

2. Institutes^ bk. I, chap, vii, par. I. 

3. Ibid. y par. 5. 


later medieval Church served to make their bibliolatry 
only the more fanatical, and to send them repeatedly 
to Scripture for the settlement of a lengthening list of 

Inevitably they encountered the problem of what 
should be the proper external form of a reformed 
Church. Luther was able to find Biblical authorization 
only for dogma, preaching, and sacraments; in discipline 
anything seemed to him lawful which was not clearly 
antagonistic to Scripture. At this rate, it was quite per- 
missible for the civil government to decide, and loyal 
subjects should accept the magistrate's decision. Cal- 
vin was remarkably indifferent to many minutiae of 
ceremony and government; in fact, in order to prove 
that the true Church had survived through the corrup- 
tions of the Papacy a position he was compelled to 
assert to repel the charge of " novelty " he too in- 
sisted that the essential criteria were preaching of God's 
word and legitimate administration of the sacraments. 
The precise organization was not so important but that 
the true Church could exist "without any visible form." 1 
He felt that many external things were in themselves 
"indifferent"; we could omit or use them at our pleas- 
ure. 2 Still, when he devised a discipline for Geneva, 3 
there were some features about which he felt that the 
Bible gave explicit directions, such as the process of ex- 
communication and the lay eldership. These he de- 
scribed as part of " the order which it has been the Lord's 

1. Ibid., i, 33-34. 

2. Ibid. t bk. in, chap, xix, par. 7. 

3. Cf. Ordonnances of 1542, Opera, X* 16-30. 


will to appoint for the government of his Church/' r As 
his disciples carried his teaching to other lands, they in- 
evitably attempted to duplicate his church order. In 
the attempt to justify it, they sought warrants in the 
Bible, which seemed to offer them more plentifully than 
even the master had suspected. They finally produced 
a convincing body of disciplinary exegesis and began to 
advance the system as having been specifically and ex- 
clusively intended by Christ himself. All other organi- 
zations, ceremonies, regalias, laws, were now viewed as 
human inventions, designed at the instigation of Satan 
to lead the soul astray. 

Henry VIII had put the Pope out of England, but he 
had retained the Papal organization, with its hierarchy, 
its ritual, and its regalia, and he had betrayed no inten- 
tion of spoiling so excellent an administrative machine 
by tampering with its internal construction. But as 
Protestant sentiment took greater hold upon the nation, 
voices were raised here and there against the garments 
of Popery in which the Church was still disguised, and 
they cried aloud to the Scriptures. "Leave not/' 
preached Bishop Hooper, " till the matter be brought 
unto the first, original, and most perfect church of the 
apostles. If thou find by their writings, that their 
church used the thing that the preacher would prove, 
then accept it; or else, not/' 2 The issue was raised 
more clearly in the congregation of English exiles at 
Frankfort during the reign of Mary. John Knox de- 
sired them to follow "the order of Geneva ... as an 

I. Institutes , bk. iv, chap, iii, par. I. 
1. John Hooper, Early Writings , p. 83. 


order most godly, and farthest off from superstitition," T 
but the other leaders. Cox, Sandys, Grindal, refused be- 
cause they felt bound in loyalty to the Prayer Book of 
Edward VI. An agreement finally proved impossible, 
and Knox's faction departed to the more congenial at- 
mosphere of Geneva. All dispute, however, was momen- 
tarily hushed by the accession of Elizabeth. The exiles 
were happy to see Protestantism restored under any 
circumstances, and the Genevan group itself took the 
initiative in promising to abandon controversy if only 
the Queen would guarantee that her church would agree 
with other reformed churches "in unity of doctrine/' 2 
The Establishment, with its genius for compromise, 
easily succeeded in fulfilling this request. The Thirty- 
Nine Articles as framed in 1563 were, as Fuller says, 
"purposely couched ... in general terms ... to include 
all such dissenters within the comprehensiveness of the 
expressions/' 3 They declared that Scripture contained 
everything necessary for salvation, and advisedly 
avoided more explicit description of the outward means. 
The 1 7th Article, on predestination, stated merely the 
Augustinian doctrine of election, but no Calvinist had 
trouble in accepting it, because to him the doctrine of 
election necessarily implied that of reprobation. 4 In- 

1. William Whittingham, A Brief Discourse of the Troubles begun at Frank- 
fort in Germany (ed. Edward Arber, London, 1907), p. 42. 

2. Strype, Annals of the Reformation (Oxford, 1824), vol. I, pt. I, pp. 152, 

I53" 1 54- 

3. Thomas Fuller, Church History of Britain, bk. ix, sec. 6, par. 22; Frere, 
The English Church in the Reigns of Elizabeth and James 7, p. 97; 
Arthur Jay Klein, Intolerance in the Reign of Elizabeth , pp. 94-99, 164- 
166; Usher, The Reconstruction of the English Church^ I, 200. 

4. Strype, op. cit. y pp. 494 ff. 


deed, if the Establishment had at first any theological 
tone, it was predominantly Calvinistic, as Whitgift 
demonstrated in the Lambeth Articles of 1595.' Cart- 
wright never quarreled with the doctrine of the Church, 2 
and the great Puritan manifesto, the Admonition, pro- 
nounced the "substance*' of it "sound and good." 3 It 
was only with the time of Andrewes and Laud that the 
leadership of the Church was captured by a definite 
opinion with which the dissenters could quarrel theo- 
logically, and they were then joined by a number of loyal 
sons of the Establishment who were not essentially Puri- 
tans and who thought themselves only defending the 
faith of their fathers. 

Upon the same spirit of compromise exemplified in its 
creed the Church determined its outward form. The 
Papal hierarchy was the only organization at hand, it 
offered some common ground both to Protestants and to 
Catholics, and there was no very coherent group to ad- 
vocate any specific changes. But as the exiles came 
trooping back, it was obvious that some of them were 
restive. The keen eye of Cecil detected the issue; 
when the Council was still debating its course, he 
prophesied that the settlement would surely arouse two 
kinds of hostility, the Catholic and the Genevan, and 
that the latter would "call the alteration a cloaked 
papistry or a mingle mangle/' 4 Many of the clergy 
were imbued with this spirit and frankly treated the in- 

1 . John Hunt, Religious Thought in England from the Reformation to the End 
oj the Last Century ', I, 91-94. 

2. Pearson, Thomas Cartwright, p. 407. 

3. W. H. Frere and C. E. Douglas, Puritan Manifestoes, p. 9. 

4. Frere, op. a/., p. 5. 


stitution as a temporary expedient. "Our Gloss upon 
this text/' wrote Sandys to Parker in April, 1559, con- 
cerning the vestment, "is that we shall not be forced to 
use them/' r Elizabeth was annoyed, but she did not 
feel secure enough at first to force the issue. Even when 
she did, she characteristically refused to take the re- 
sponsibility herself, and compelled the reluctant Parker 
to issue the Advertisements under his own authority. 

The archbishop did what he could. Pointing out that 
all the Queen's subjects should be "knit together in one 
perfect unity of doctrine" and be "conjoined in one uni- 
formity of rites and manners/' he demanded in her 
name that the ministers stop arguing and wear the gar- 
ments. 2 But he warned Cecil beforehand: "What 
tumult may follow, what speeches and talks like to rise 
in the realm ... we leave it to your wisdom to con- 
sider/' 3 He was not disappointed. A howl of protest 
went up. "These precise fools," he told the Queen, 
"would offer their goods and bodies to prison, rather 
than they would relent." 4 The Advertisements were 
designed to be the first step to complete uniformity; in- 
stead they created nonconformity, 5 and, as Bishop 
Home at once recognized, divided the Church into 
two parties. 6 Dissent seemed only to thrive on Parker's 

1. Matthew Parker, Correspondence , p. 65; cf. Zurich Letters^ I, 74; Strype, 
op. cit. y pp. 500-505; R. W. Dixon, History oj the Church of England r , vol. 
v, chap. xxxv. 

2. Gee and Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English Church History , pp. 

3. Parker, op. cit., p. 268. 

4. 7*W,,pp. 278-279. 

5. William Pierce, The Marprelate Tracts, pp. xv-xviii. 

6 . Zurich Letters ,1,142. 


attempts at repression, and its program expanded 
rapidly to envisage not only reform of ceremonies, but 
of the whole Establishment. 1 "I am inwardly afraid/' 
wrote Cecil in 1566, "that if fear shall not stay this 
riotous insolency, these rash young heads, that are so 
soon ripe to climb into pulpits, will content themselves 
with no limits, either in the Church or in the policy/' 2 

All the rash young heads needed was a leader and a 
platform. They found the first in Thomas Cartwright, 
and Field and Wilcox wrote the platform in 1572 when 
they published the Admonition to Parliament.* By this 
date the " Puritan " party can be said to have appeared 
fully armed upon the scene, and the long contest was 
joined, which was to persist for well over the next half 
century and to be as far from settlement in the days of 
the Massachusetts Bay Company as at the moment of 
its inception. 

The word " Puritan " is one of those unfortunate terms 
which have come to mean all things to all men. It is not 
merely a modern source of confusion; even in the age of 
which we are speaking there was no precise connotation. 
"Concerning the name (Puritan) it is ambiguous, and 
so it is fallacious/' 4 At the beginning those who 
scrupled at the liturgy and vestments were branded 
"Puritans" in derision, but as their simple protest 
gathered momentum, there "came forth an other sort, 

1. G. W. Prothero, Select Statutes, p. 194. 

2. Strype, op. cit., p. 158. 

3. Ibid., vol. n, pt. i, pp. 183 ff.; Cal. St. Pap., Dom., Eliz. y vol. LXXXVI, 
Nos. 45-48; Prothero, Select Statutes, p. 120; Sir Simonds D'Ewes, 
Journals, p. 213. 

4. Giles Widdowes, The Schismatical Puritan (1631), sig. A3 recto. 


affirming that those matters touching Apparell, were but 
trifles, . . . but that there were greater things farre of 
more weight and importance ... to be altered in a 
Church rightly refourmed." x With this larger Puritan 
objective in mind Udall put into the mouth of his ficti- 
tious bishop, Diotrephes, a trenchant definition of the 
party: "I meane them, that are not contented with the 
state, but mislike the gouernment of the Church, and 
>vould haue a new forme of gouernement." 2 As we shall 
ase the word, therefore, we shall intend to signify strictly 
:hat group of men who wished to replace the hierarchy 
>vith another ecclesiastical system, and we shall take the 
iberty, for the time being, to understand by it the ad- 
/ocates specifically of Presbyterianism. At this time, 
lowever, the word was used more loosely. Any con- 
spicuously pious person was apt to be dubbed Puritan 
}y his more ribald contemporaries, so that even an An- 
glican author would admit that "all good behaviour is 
icorned of many, as a matter of Puritanisme, and so 
earmed. M 3 Many thus denominated were men who, as 
Nichols witnessed in 1602, merely objected to the use of 
:ertain ceremonies, or to subscription "beyond the 
tatute," or who simply wanted to "heare sermons, 
alke of the scriptures, singe Psalmes together in pri- 
late houses/' 4 Not all such persons were hostile to the 
tierarchy if they might have their way in minor mat- 
ers. But they were not the men who forced to the front 

. Thomas Cooper, An Admonition to the People of England (1589), p. 160. 

. A Parte of a Register (1590), p. 339. 

. John Burgess, An answer rejoined to that much applauded pamphlet ( 1 63 1 ) , 

p. 7. 
. Josias Nichols, The Plea of the Innocent (1602), p. 12. 


the great questions over which the Establishment 
finally came to grief in the Civil Wars, and we can for 
the moment neglect them. It is to the movement for 
"discipline out of the Word" that we must look for the 
source of that energy which, after beating itself in vain 
for sixty years against the state Church, inundated the 
shores of another continent. 

To begin with, the Puritan was sure that he had an 
unanswerable case. To him, Protestant church polity 
was every bit as important as Protestant theology; 
England had "divided and separated asunder the Doc- 
trine and Discipline of the Gospell: two things which 
both by their owne nature, and also by the commande- 
ment of God are to be ioyned together/' * Travers, the 
official spokesman for the party, stated the central con- 
tention with greatest clarity: 

I affirme that Christ hath left us so perfect a rule and Discipline 
. . . which is common and generall to all the Church, and perpetuall 
for all times, and so necessary, that without it this whole society, and 
company, and Christian Commonwealth cannot well bee kept under 
their Prince and King lesus Christ. 2 

Puritans were so absolutely persuaded they were fight- 
ing the Lord's battle that they never understood how 
any but the deliberate minions of Antichrist could 
oppose them. It was impossible for them to imagine that 
the Queen or the government had heard them, for if the 
sovereign were only once to consider their unanswerable 
arguments, she would necessarily become converted. 
The simplest and surest method of inaugurating the 

1 . Travers, A full and plaine declaration of Ecclesiastical! Discipline (Leyden, 
1617), p. 103. 

2. Ibid., p. 5. 


reformation of England always seemed to them to be a 
public debate: "Venture your byshopprickes vpon a dis- 
putation, and wee will venture our Hues, take the chal- 
lenge if you dare/' I Puritans promised over and over 
again to abide by the results of such a meeting, but they 
were sure, indeed they knew, that any decision based 
upon the merits of the case could not possibly reject 

For in Puritan eyes the hierarchy stood self-con- 
demned. Its abuses were evident, its pomp and luxury, 
its pluralists and non-residents, its subjection to worldly 
interests. The contrast between the Church as it was 
and the Church as the Bible said it should have been was 
as plain as the nose on anybody's face: "The one parte 
being proude, pontificall and tyrannous: and the woorde 
of God for the other parte expresse and manifest, as if it 
pleased the state to examine the matters, it would be 
evident/' 2 By 1572 Puritans were positive that the 
welfare of their own and the nation's souls demanded 
immediate action. The authors of the Admonition de- 
clared they had used gentle words too long: " the wound 
groweth desperate, and dead flesh hath overgrowne all, 
and therefore the wound had neede of a sharpe corsive 
and eatinge plaister. It is no tyme to blanch, nor to 
sewe cushens under mens elbowes, or to flatter them in 
their synnes." 3 And that a constantly applied "plais- 
ter" had not, by 1630, effected the desired cure was 
no discouragement to these self-appointed physicians. 

1. John Udall, A Demonstration oj the truth of that Discipline (ed. Edward 
Arber, 1895), P- 6 - 

2. Frere and Douglas, Puritan Manifestoes, p. 6. 

3. A Seconde Parte oj a Register^ I, 89. 


With such an institution as the Established Church 
they could never compromise. 

The Puritans* campaign, thus, was essentially a cru- 
sade for what seemed self-evident righteousness. They 
were out to triumph or perish in the attempt. They 
might disguise their ultimate objective under occasional 
programs of lesser reforms in ceremony and ritual, but as 
long as the Biblical warrant for church polity remained 
their basic assumption nothing short of a Presbyterian- 
ized Church could really content them. Rebuffs, dep- 
rivations, imprisonment only accentuated their zeal. 
They were confident of the outcome. Udall spoke for 
all his brethren when he confidently predicted that the 
result of the whole controversy would be the triumph 
of that " gouernment of the Churche, by the rules of that 
Discipline which Christe himselfe hath prescribed in his 
worde, which I doe perswade myselfe to see before it bee 
long." ' 

The first shock of this onslaught dazed and be- 
wildered the captains of the Church. Such men as 
Jewel or Sandys had no particular fondness for trappings 
and ceremony, but they considered it pedantry to con- 
cern themselves with such matters in the face of the life- 
and-death war with Rome. They themselves had, in all 
good faith, been the first to justify themselves by an ap- 
peal to Scripture. Jewel declared that they had searched 
out of the Bible "one sure form of religion/' that they 
had "returned again unto the primitive church of the 
ancient fathers and apostles." 2 Now they suddenly 

1. Udall, in A Parte of a Register, p. 352. 

2. Jewel, "Apology of the Church of England" (1564), Works > in, 106. 


found their own ranks strangely sundered; within the 
camp a vigorous faction was accusing them of never 
having searched out the holy Bible at all, and of being 
therefore not much better off than the Pope himself. 
Naturally the bishops were at first puzzled. But at least 
one man, the master of Trinity College, Cambridge, had 
seen enough of the "rash young heads " at close range to 
know what was in them; and as soon as the Puritans 
came into the open with their Admonition John Whit- 
gift was prepared for them. His controversy with Cart- 
wright rallied the scattered wits of the Establishment, 
and the lines of defense he erected in this voluminous 
combat warfare were, in the main, dutifully repaired 
and strengthened by the subsequent flood of publica- 

Whitgift and the churchmen flatly denied that the 
Scripture contained any such concrete polity as the 
Puritans pretended. That, they insisted, was a thing 
which God had left men to determine for themselves, 
permitting it to be variable "according to circum- 
stances of time and place/' r He had commanded that a 
ministry should be, but he was equally pleased if the 
office were executed in a white garment or a black, 2 and 
in either case the decision of the Church upon an in- 
different matter should be "borne withall for order and 
obedience sake/' 3 Salvation was in no way dependent 
upon the ceremonies, discipline, or government of the 
Church. 4 Puritans were deluded by two baneful notions: 

I. Francis Mason, The Authority of the Church^ p. 34. 

i. Ibid.) p. 7. 

3. Quoted from "a bishop," A Parte of a Register, p. 30. 

4. Whitgift, Works, i, 181. 


they thought that the Church must "have the same 
kind of government that was in the apostles' time . . . 
and no other/' and that men might not "in any wise 
. . . retain in the Church anything that hath been 
abused under the Pope." x But Whitgift dared boldly to 
affirm that everything necessary to salvation was "as 
purely and perfectly taught, and by public authority 
established, in this Church of England at this day" as 
ever "in any church sithence the apostles' time., or now 
be in any reformed church in the world." 2 

If this reasoning was correct, then the Puritans were 
making a fuss over nothing; they were fetching out of 
the Bible things that were not in it, and theirs were then 
the corruptions, theirs the false teachings. False, wrote 
Bancroft, was exactly what Presbyterianism was, 

that most counterfeyt and falsly patched vp government ... a 
meere humane device devised by shiftinge and sleight, attayned by 
tiranny and bloud, and mainteyned with vntollerable pride and with 
most straunge boldnes in expoundinge the scriptures and falsifyinge 
of all antiquitye. 3 

For many centuries men who behaved in this fashion 
had been branded with one of two crimes: heresy or 
schism. Puritans professed theological orthodoxy, but 
if they thus cleared themselves of heresy, they could not 
avoid the charge of schism. "He is schismatical, which 
consentinge with the Churche in all articles of salvation 
and of substance, yet nevertheless varieth therefrom in 
orders and ceremonies, and for the same contendeth in 
the Church." 4 A schismatic, therefore, was an im- 

I. Ibid.,?. 6. 2. Ibid.,v- 3- 

3. Burrage, Early English Dissenters, n, 131. 

4. Strype, Life and Acts of John Whitgiji, I, 272-277. 


pugner of unity, and to the sixteenth century was not 
only an enemy to the Church but to the State. He was 
something very close to a traitor, for as Laud assured 
Parliament, whosoever aimed to overthrow the eccles- 
iastical government "will not spare, if ever they get 
power, to have a pluck at the throne of David/* * 

When the prelates took this stand they were not mak- 
ing a fetish of uniformity per se. It was a day when men 
acted under what they believed to be the immediate 
direction of God's Word, and when all truth but their 
own was so much deception and work of Satan. As 
Hooker justly expressed it, once the minds of men are 
persuaded "that it is the will of God to have those 
things done which they fancy " there will be no limit to 
what they will attempt, "for which cause it behoveth 
wisdom to fear the sequels thereof, even beyond all ap- 
parent cause of fear." 2 In this respect the defenders of 
the Establishment qualified as wise; they never lost a 
chance to point ominously towards Anabaptism, the 
ever present bogey-man of the Reformation. "Let 
their petitions haue successe," Covell shrieked, "and in 
that one Act, let Religion, the Prince, peace, and all 
vtterly perish/' 3 While the churchmen were altogether 
sure such miserable prospects would come to pass if the 
disciplinarians had their way, they were only the more 
inspired to take advantage of every weapon at hand, and 
to make it clear to the government that its interest and 
theirs were one and the same. 

1. Laud, "Sermon to Parliament" (1626), Works^ I, 83. 

2. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity y Preface, chap, viii, par. 12. 

3. Covell, A Modest and reasonable examination (1604), p. 12. 


The political argument was, indeed, the trump card in 
the prelates' hands. The principles of absolute subjec- 
tion to superiors, of civil supremacy over the Church, of 
religious uniformity, which we have seen were funda- 
mental to every Reformation creed, were far from being 
questioned by the Puritans themselves. Yet did not 
these very principles clearly condemn the Puritan cause 
as at best a thinly disguised rebellion? As long as the 
disputed question was merely whether or no the Bible 
prescribed a specific church polity, it was an academic 
affair. But it could not rest there; Puritans were bound, 
by the very nature of their case, to press for the actual 
substitution of their discipline for that which the Queen 
had set up. If they had been able to convince their op- 
ponents, the bishops would, by their own theory, have 
been compelled to listen, for the Church of England, as 
a Protestant organization, claimed to be founded on the 
Bible. An English magistrate, Whitgift was the first to 
admit, could "do nothing against the word of God." x 
But the Anglicans believed that no proof had been 
offered for further limitation upon the Queen's authority 
beyond what she and her Church had already admitted. 
Therefore in the government's eyes Puritans were 
guilty of seditious purposes. If, Whitgift said, it is not 
proper for individual men to decide external matters, if 
that "is proper to them only to whom God hath com- 
mitted the government of his Church," then whosoever 
disobeys the laws of the Church "disobeyeth both God 
and the prince." 2 The age could not separate these 
allegiances; the single act necessarily entailed a double 

I. Whitgift, Works, I, 22. 2. Ibid., 11,50. 


offense. "You cannot be the Queenes friend that thus 
looke for innouations in the state/' x 

The bishops' counter attack upon the Puritans' politi- 
cal loyalty did not find these expert disputants entirely 
unprepared. This was not the first time that religious 
innovators had had their own political tenets quoted 
against themselves. Protestant theory could afford ex- 
travagant precepts of non-resistance as long as civil 
powers cooperated with the reform. But if the princes 
opposed it, then Christians had been forced to remember 
that they should give unto Caesar the things that are 
Caesar's, but unto God what is God's. If a magistrate 
did wrong simply to themselves, they had no recourse: 
for Christians must bear with injustice as with the chas- 
tising hand of the deity lifted against them, if for no other 
reason than that they were naturally depraved and de- 
served punishment. But if the magistrate did wrong to 
God, if he commanded what was clearly contrary to the 
Word, then it was quite another matter. This appeal 
from the impious exactions of an earthly ruler to the 
'clear prescriptions of the Bible was a necessary gesture 
of the whole Reformation movement; otherwise the 
initial revolution would never have taken place. Luther 
had little occasion to face the issue squarely, and justi- 
fiable resistance in his teaching never got beyond the 
passive stage. But in Zwingli the answer was a clarion 
call to action. The citizen was still in theory subject to 
the earthly powers God had placed over him, with the 
sole exception that when the magistrate trod upon 
sacred precincts the subject possessed "das Wider- 

i. A Pane of a Register, p. 352. 


standsrecht gegen die Obrigkeit." Calvin's position was 
essentially, though not so flagrantly, the same. After 
twelve hundred pages culminating in a defense of abso- 
lutism, the Institutes introduced in the last paragraph of 
the last chapter one exception to all that had gone be- 
fore, which, we are told, "is entitled to our first atten- 
tion/' Our obedience to our governors must not 

seduce us from obedience to him, to whose will the desires of all 
kings ought to be subject, to whose decrees all their commands ought 
to yield, to whose majesty all their sceptres ought to submit. . . . 
If they command anything against him, it ought not to have the 
least attention; nor, in this case, ought we to pay any regard to all 
that dignity attached to magistrates; to which no injury is done 
when it- is subjected to the unrivalled and supreme power of God. 1 

The situation has been, I think, accurately char- 
acterized by a remark of G. P. Gooch: "We shall only 
read him aright if we figure to ourselves the proclama- 
tion of the duty of submission by a herald in the market- 
place, and the whispering of the right of resistance in the 
by-lanes of the city." 2 Wherever this issue had been 
raised, the same dubious answer had ever been forth- 
coming. English Protestants as a whole had faced the 
problem under the reign of Catholic Mary, and the 
churchmen themselves had then thought it through to a 
similar conclusion. " If the ministers of the civill power 
command thee to dishonour God/' Bishop Ponet had 
written, "thou oughtest not to do it, but to leave it 
undone: for it is evill," 3 and on that basis he had gone 
so far as to declare that the subject might lawfully de- 

1. Institutes, bk. iv, chap, xx, par. 32. 

2. English Democratic Ideas in the Sixteenth Century y p. 6. 

3. A Short Treatise of Politicke Power (first edition, 1556; reprinted, 1639), 
p. 25. 


pose or even kill an evil governor. 1 The Puritans, being 
sincerely patriotic and professing the same faith as their 
ruler, resisted Ponet's radical deduction; yet when the 
bishops threw the issue up to them and called upon them 
to obey the monarch in the name of the very loyalty 
they pretended, they could do nothing but utilize his 
argument. They could only remind the authorities that 
there was one consideration which was bound to have 
their first attention, and as the dispute grew more 
heated they were often compelled to raise their voices 
above a whisper, until in January, 1649, they spoke in 
unmistakable tones, and Bishop Ponet's teaching found 
its full enunciation. 

The essence of the Puritan contention was that even 
the minutiae of ecclesiastical practice had been pre- 
scribed ages ago by Christ himself, and they were to 
remain forever unchanged by any man. The prince 
could and should rule over the Church, but he must re- 
spect the fundamental laws of its constitution. The 
prelates misled him if they told him that in these sacred 
and unalterable matters his will was law. In this re- 
spect, though only in this respect, his authority was not 
supreme. So far as the form of its government was con- 
cerned, the Church was sufficient unto itself. In the 
final analysis the ecclesiastical regime depended, 

not vppon the authority of Princes, but vppon the ordinaunce of 
God, who hath most mercifully and wisely so established the same, 
that as with the comfortable ayde of Christian Magistrates, it may 
singulerlie flourish & prosper, so without it, it may continue, and 
against the aduersaries thereof preuail. 2 

1. Ibid. y p. 49. 

2. A Brief c and plain f declaration (1584), p. 9. 


The sovereign might wish God had ordained otherwise 
than he had, but there was nothing he could do about it. 
If he actually were a Christian, he would voluntarily 
accept this restraint. By so doing he would not di- 
minish his office; his authority would still be the greatest 
on earth, even though he should acknowledge "it is not 
infinite, but it is limited by the word of God." l If, how- 
ever, a deluded prince forgot that which God required of 
him, if he disregarded the immutable decrees, then the 
trouble was of his own seeking. If the government made 
it necessary for Puritans to choose between God and 
man, it could not blame them if they obeyed the higher 
authority. Hence the Puritans were ever certain that 
they were neither rebels nor schismatics, in the true 
sense, when they rejected the hierarchy: "The Magis- 
trate must not be resisted, and yet that which is against 
the conscience, may without disloyaltie be refused." 2 
No laws, however severe, and no cruelty, not even 
death, "can discharge the saints and servants of the 
Lord from going forward in that which is good." 3 If we 
do not ceaselessly defend the pure form of church gov- 
ernment, if we do not denounce the prelates' usurpation, 
"we shall shewe our selues rather bastards, then nat- 
urall children." 4 The bishops might call them schis- 
matics and scapegraces, but Puritans knew that in the 
eyes of God they were His only legitimate offspring, and 
could not forever be kept from their inheritance. 

Limitation of the magistrate, however, was all very 

1. Cartwright, quoted in Whitgift, Works^ in, 295. 

2. A True, Modest, and just Defence (1618), p. 6. 

3. Cartwright, op. /., I, 13-14- 

4. John Dayrell, A Treatise of the Church (1617), sig. A2 verso. 


well as long as it remained theoretical. Trouble began 
with the attempt to realize it. The Puritan assumption 
was that the Bible gave explicit instructions, but even 
the most confident admitted that it had some difficult 
passages and that many particular cases had to be de- 
termined rather by inference than by specific provision. 
Besides, man in his depravity was apt to distort even 
the plainest text. Therefore the prince must leave the 
delimitation of his authority to be determined, not by 
himself or his courts, but by the godly ministers, the 
professional experts in the rule by which all men should 
walk. The ministers, naturally, would be just, impar- 
tial, and righteous, so far as any men could be. They 
ordered these things better, a Puritan might have said, 
in Scotland: 

where the ministerie of the kirk is once lawfully constitute, and 
they that are placed doe their office faithfully, all godly Princes and 
Magistrates ought to heare, and obey their voice, and reverence the 
Majestic of the Son of God speaking in them. 1 

Of course, the Puritans conceded, one might object 
"that for Princes to subscribe to the determination of 
priestes ... is no supremacie but a subiection"; and 
they might well suppose so, for precisely that objection 
was made, more times than we care to count. But the 
ready reply was always on tap: "We answer, it is no 
subjection vnto men, but to God & his worde, to doe 
nothing in these matters, but by the faithfull aduise of 
them, that know his will, & are bounde to teach it vnto 
all men." 2 

1. Seconds Booke of Discipline (edition of 1621), chap, x, par. 9. 

2. A Brief e and plaine declaration (1584), p. 142. 


At this juncture we at last begin to perceive what was 
the real issue between the two parties. They both 
agreed, as we have seen, on the fundamental philosophy 
of civil supremacy, but they diverged when they came 
to make applications. "Of the title of the princes su- 
premacie, if it be truely vnderstood, we moue no coun- 
trouersie." But the correct understanding was pre- 
cisely the question: " herein resteth all the doubt, howe 
this is truely to be vnderstoode." x The Puritans did not 
interpret it to mean supremacy absolute and unre- 
stricted; they qualified it, or rather read a qualification 
into it. The prince was to establish the Church by his 
authority, but that Church was to be specifically the one 
which "He hath appointed," and once established it was 
ever after to be "preserved in the same simplicity and 
sincerity undefiled." 2 Puritans could and did take the 
oath of supremacy whenever required, because it simply 
bound them to support the forcible establishment of the 
Church in uniformity throughout the kingdom, and that 
object they considered laudable. But they had a very 
concrete idea of what kind of church the oath ought to 
intend, and this interpretation their opponents could 
not accept. From the Anglican standpoint there was an 
element of equivocation in the Puritans' vows, but to 
the Puritans themselves all was open and aboveboard. 
In the final analysis the difference can be reduced to a 
matter of definition. And to the Puritans the proper 
definition of the Church was so obvious that even he 
who ran could not miss it if only he would run with a 
Bible in his hand. 

p. 138. 2. Travers, A full and flaine declaration, p. 103. 


Otherwise the Puritans had no objections to the gov- 
ernment's policy. Presbyterianism involved no con- 
tribution to the development of liberty or toleration; on 
the contrary it was if anything more repressive, for it 
would have added to the almost purely political force of 
the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity the blazing sanc- 
tions of the divine command. It intended only the sub- 
stitution of the Genevan regime for that which prevailed, 
but it expected no other alterations: "We beseche her 
majestic to have the hearing of this matter of Gods, and 
to take the defence of it upon her, and to fortifie it by 
law, that it may be received by common order through 
out her dominions." T If only the sovereign would wait 
for the pronouncements of a synod, she then could pro- 
ceed to her heart's content to order those opinions 
taught and to command "silence vnto those, who after 
playne & fonde refutation of their errours, notwith- 
standing gaynsaye the trueth." 2 Church and State, 
each thus resting upon its proper foundations, would be 
no less united than before, but rather, by virtue of their 
common dedication to the same holy end, would func- 
tion even more efficiently in cooperation. " If anie shall 
offende against these lawes, whether he be Preacher or 
hearer, besides the Ecclesisatical censure, which he 
should not escape, he is also to bee punished in body by 
the Ciuill Magistrate/' 3 

Because they professed complete adherence to the 

1. "Second Admonition" (1572), in Frere and Douglas, Puritan Mani- 
festoes, p. 130. 

2. A Defence of the godlie Ministers (1587), sig. Ei verso. 

3. lbid. y sig. D3 verso. 


orthodox political philosophy, the reformers took great 
care to avoid employing arguments or methods which 
might just as well be used against themselves on the in- 
evitable day when they came into power. They wanted 
it clearly understood that they would countenance no 
opposition but that of their own making. The change 
they envisaged was to be, not an "alteration, but the 
perfection of the estates of the Church 1 '; 1 it was to 
emanate, not from a band of revolutionaries, but from 
the only legitimate author of the law, the sovereign in 
Parliament. The reform in polity should be accom- 
plished "by the authoritie of our Christian King, with 
the consent of his Parliament,'* 2 just as the reform in 
doctrine had been effected by Henry VIII. Puritans were 
above all economically and socially respectable; theirs 
was not an idle boast when they declared they abhorred 
democracy. In fact, they continually predicted that if the 
hierarchy were removed, the established order of society 
would not be affected; it would rather be reinforced. 3 
The reformed regime would make for a surer triumph of 
law and order, because the monarch would not only con- 
tinue to exercise full police powers, but would exact the 
complete subjection required by Reformation theory 
to godly magistrates. There would no longer be the 
shadow of a doubt that the throne of England was a 
Christian institution. As the Admonition put it at the 
beginning of the controversy, the Puritans ardently in- 

1. A Brief e and plain f declaration (1584), sig. 4 recto. 

2. William Stoughton, An Assertion For true and Christian Church-policie 
(1604), p. 28. 

3. Ibid. t p. 22. 


tended " that Christ being restored into his kyngdome, 
to rule in the same by the scepter of his worde . . . the 
Prince may be better obeyed/' l 

This fund of argument was among what Richard 
Hooker called the " certain general inducements " Puri- 
tans were using " to make saleable your cause in gross/' 2 
but in spite of much expert salesmanship, the govern- 
ment refused to be "sold." Elizabeth preferred to work 
behind the scenes, but a letter she wrote to James of 
Scotland in 1590 shows she knew what she was about. 
Presbyterians, she said, " wold have no kings but a pres- 
bitrye, and take our place while they inioy our privilege, 
with a shade of Codes word. . . . Suppose you, my deare 
brother, that I can tollerat such scandalz of my sincere 
government ? " 3 James supposed nothing of the sort. 
He knew, if anything, more about the sect than his 
cousin, for had not Andrew Melville tweaked him by the 
sleeve and called him " God's silly vassal" to his royal 
face? He spoke from bitter experience when he told the 
Hampton Court Conference that a presbytery "as well 
agreeth with a Monarchy, as God, and the Diuell." 4 
During his rule it became impossible for Puritans any 
longer to pretend that the supremacy could be con- 
verted intact to the uses of a Presbyterianized nation; 
James made it quite evident that his supremacy was 
inextricably identified with the specific organization of 
the Church. His brilliant aphorism at the Conference 

i. Frere and Douglas, Puritan Manifestoes, p. 18. 

1. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Preface, chap, iii, par. 5. 

3. Letters of Queen Elizabeth and King James VI of Scotland (Camden So- 
ciety, 1849), p. 63. 

4. Barlow, The Svmme and Svbstance of the Conference (1604), p. 79. 


clinched the matter: " If once you were out, and they in 
place, I knowe what would become of my Supremacie. 
No Bishop, no King." l By him the Crown became 
publicly committed to a denial of the Puritan argument 
for scriptural discipline, and henceforth a change in the 
ecclesiastical regime would necessarily entail a political 
revolution. From the beginning of the controversy 
Puritans had nervously foreseen the possibility of the 
avowed hostility of the Crown, and they had tried to 
stave it off by quibbling. Now, however, their liege lord 
was frankly in the enemy's camp, and what could they 
do about it? 

The root of the difficulty, as Professor Allen has bril- 
liantly demonstrated, 2 lay in the peculiar character of 
the Establishment itself. The Elizabethan Settlement 
had incorporated almost exclusively one half of Refor- 
mation political theory. It had enshrined the ideal of 
unity, it had declared for the need of order in society. 
Therefore the Church was designed to retain the status 
quo and to be subjected to the ruler. By the time of 
James this had come to mean that no further reforma- 
tion could be made in the direction of religious truth 
without disrupting the social order. In effect, the su- 
premacy ultimately implied that the King, in the in- 
terest of society, could and must pass judgment upon all 
religious disputes, doctrinal as well as ecclesiastical. 
The power of the supremacy, Sutcliffe said, " doeth con- 
sist in making of lawes, and disanulling them; in com- 

1. Ibid., p. 82. 

2. Allen, 'The History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century, pp. 

168-175, 179. 


manding, and not being subiect to the commandement 
of others; in appointing the principall officers or gouer- 
nours, and in supreme Judgement." I There was and 
there could be no effective limitation upon an indefinite 
power to issue " supreme Judgement." The churchmen 
betrayed this fact when they struck their hardest 
against the Puritan contention that the King was 
limited by a law higher than any of his own making, and 
especially at the proposal that this limitation should be 
imposed by the ministers themselves. Puritans might 
insist that their scheme of cooperating agencies, both 
ruled by the fundamental body of divine law, would 
maintain the social stability, but the King and his 
priests were convinced that the existence of coordinate 
authorities was impossible. " There cannot be two 
supreme iurisdictions in one state, the one not depend- 
ing of another. For if the one command, the other for- 
bid; whom should we obey, if both be equall?" 2 

Therefore James avowed his belief that the Church 
was sufficiently reformed, and by so doing took upon 
himself to settle a whole number of disputed religious 
points by royal fiat. This was conduct which Puritans 
could feel was proper only to the devil's advocate, but 
James and the clergy assumed his right to the power he 
exercised, and called upon the Puritans to obey in the 
name of that political loyalty which was an indispen- 
sable ingredient in the Puritan creed. The ceremonies 
and vestments, preached Francis Mason, do not have to 
be individually commanded in the Bible, for they are 

1. Matthew Sutcliffe, A Treatise of Ecclesiastical Discipline (1591), p. 147. 

2. 1 'bid., p. 151. 


enjoined "in euery place where God commands vs to 
obey our Prince. " x Puritans had tried to avoid the issue 
by blaming the prelates alone, but they could do so no 
more. "Know you whom you accuse?'* asked Bishop 
Hall, "Let me show you your adversary. It is King 
James himself/' 2 By 1630 the rift between the King 
and his Puritan subjects was a yawning chasm, and the 
Puritans were not colossal enough to straddle it; they 
could not preach limitation of the King by the Bible 
and still be accounted loyal citizens. "The Puritan 
tenet/' said Giles Widdowes, "is, that Kings must bee 
subiect to the Puritan Presbyters. . . . Thus the oaths 
of Supremacie, and allegiance are broken. This Puritan 
is an Arch-traitor/' 3 

Puritans had always attempted to reply to such an 
accusation by declaring that they constituted the true 
body of the Church and that the bishops were usurpers, 
whom a loyal subject should labor to have evicted. As 
long as the Church remained the ill-defined institution 
of the Elizabethan Settlement, this claim could still, 
though with difficulty, pass muster. But coincident 
with the defeat of Spain there began to emerge within 
the Church a new group of leaders, men who had been 
reared in the Establishment and loved its ritual and its 
government. They no longer accepted it as a mere 
compromise between Catholicism and Calvinism, but 
as a complete entity. Doctrinal uniformity was not 
enough; they were determined to achieve unity in ad- 

1. The Authority of the Chvrch, p. 31. 

2. "A Common Apology of the Church of England" (1610), Works (ed. 
Philip Wynter, Oxford, 1863), ix, 67. 

3. The Schismatical Puritan (1631), sig. Ci recto. 


ministration as well. The Church could not continue 
half Puritan and half Anglican, and it was now, they 
thought, high time that it became all one thing or the 
other. They pleaded their cause in a number of able 
pamphlets, of which Bancroft's and Sutcliffe's were 
typical and Hooker's incomparably the greatest. 

The Stuarts were in complete sympathy with this 
rising determination to settle the Puritans' business. 
" If this bee all ... they haue to say/' James announced 
as he left Hampton Court, "I shall make them con- 
forme themselues, or I will harrie them out of the land, 
or else do worse." x The clergy, headed by the vigorous 
Bancroft, responded eagerly to this encouragement, and 
in the first years of the new reign achieved what Pro- 
fessor Usher has termed the "reconstruction" of the 
Church. The miscellaneous laws and orders of the pre- 
vious years were codified into the systematic Canons of 
1604, with some new statements that were in actuality 
anti-Puritan legislation. 2 At the same time the Court of 
High Commission was brought to its greatest degree of 
efficiency, sending its pursuivants through every county 
with summonses to trembling divines. 3 In 1606 Henry 
Jacob truthfully lamented that there was no hope of 
"freedom" from Antichrist while the prelates ruled, 
" but a more direfull expectation of greater slaveries and 
servitude, then ever before, as may appeare by the late 
Canons." 4 

But the Canons were not the sole cause of Puritan 

j. Barlow, op. cit., p. 83. 

2. Cf. first twelve canons, Edward Cardwell, Synodalia, I, 249-253. 

3. Usher, op. '/., i, 91-110. 

4. Henry Jacob, A Christian and Modest offer, p. 33. 


despair. The reconstruction was expressed not only in 
legislation, but in a comprehensive restatement of the 
position of the Church, fortified by a number of broad 
confirmatory testimonies drawn from sources which 
seemed to the Puritans altogether irrelevant to the mat- 
ter in hand. The new school of Anglicans frankly de- 
clared that the sacred Scripture was not the only law 
God had appointed for man to observe, nor had it ever 
been designed to be a complete guide for all activity. In 
the question of ecclesiastical polity they found abun- 
dant and authoritative directions in the collective wis- 
dom of Christianity, the interpretations of the Councils 
and the Fathers, the traditions of the Church. More- 
over, they put forward speculations from more secular 
realms arguments from reason, nature, from the law 
of nations, or from the character and origin of public 
society. By enlarging the Puritan conception of law as 
only something "which superior authority imposeth" 
to comprehend the eternal decrees upon which God had 
erected the universe, 1 the learned apologists justified the 
Established Church upon a sort of cosmic basis. And as 
they resorted to these larger reflections they turned 
their backs upon the harsh bibliolatry of Puritanism. 
Through their influence Calvinism began to be un- 
fashionable, or as a Church historian has put it, ''the 
foreign Calvinistic teaching began to disappear before 
the larger Catholic doctrine of the love of God and 
the atoning work of Christ for all mankind." 2 In 
the Lambeth Articles of 1595 Whitgift still interpreted 

1. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, bk. I, chap, iii, par. I. 

2. William E. Collins, The English Reformation and its Consequences, p. 27. 


the Church's theology in a thoroughly Calvinistic spirit, 
but the prelates at the Hampton Court Conference 
quashed the proposal to have the Lambeth statements 
incorporated into the Articles. 1 Presently the most 
prominent of the Church theologians were generally re- 
pudiating the rigorous doctrines of election and repro- 
bation. Samuel Brooke wrote Laud in 1630 that he 
considered predestination the root of all Puritanism, 
and Puritanism "the root of all rebellion and diso- 
bedient intractablenesse, and schism and sauciness in the 
country/' 2 Because of their opposition to this tenet the 
new school acquired from their Puritan foes the epithet 
"Arminian," although the two groups soon clashed on 
practically every other principle and practice. Every 
profession the school made was anathema to the Puri- 
tans, and when men of this persuasion became powerful 
enough in the Church to attempt forcing an elaborate 
sacerdotalism upon honest souls who for half a century 
had been striving against much milder rituals, when the 
Arminian bishops deliberately required the people to 
play games on Sunday and, from the Puritan stand- 
point, desecrate the Sabbath, when they refused to per- 
mit the Lord's Supper to be taken around a table, but 
insisted upon using altars and what the Puritans con- 
sidered the paraphernalia of the Mass when the Ar- 
minians did these things, they seemed to be systemati- 
cally outraging every Puritan sensibility. Unless the 
Puritans could check this faction, their situation, diffi- 

1. William Barlow, op. cit. y p. 38; Usher, op. '/., I, 321-322. 

2. Quoted in William Holden Hutton, hc English Church from the Accession 
o] Charles I to the Death of Anne, p. 34. 


cult though it had been since the days of the Admoni- 
tion, would become utterly hopeless. 

At the beginning of Charles's reign the only satisfac- 
tion Puritans could derive from the aspect of affairs was 
that Laud and his ilk outraged more persons than them- 
selves. It was about this time, Fuller tells us, that the 
word "Puritan" began to signify those who were de- 
fenders of matters which might be considered doctrinal 
in the English Church, or those who were simply "anti- 
Arminian in their judgments." l Clearly many old line 
supporters of the Establishment, who in pre-Laudian 
days had been hostile or indifferent to Puritanism, were 
shocked by the Popish aroma of the Arminian prelacy 
and became willing to join hands with the reformers, not 
so much because they wanted Presbyterianism, but be- 
cause they did not want jure divino bishops. The Puri- 
tans, of course, encouraged such recruits. While they 
could cry down " those Hereticall and Grace-destroying 
Arminian nouelties, which haue of late inuaded, af- 
fronted, and almost shouldred out of doores, the ancient, 
established, and resolued Doctrines of our Church," 2 
Puritans were assured of being the spokesmen for a 
larger proportion of public opinion than at any previous 
time. They could drive home their ancient claim that 
the bishops were only a usurping faction in the Church 
by playing upon the average Englishman's distrust of 
the "high church" party. Finally, the personal un- 
popularity of James, the immorality of his Court, and 

1. Fuller, Church History of Britain, bk. x, sec. 6, par. 18. 

2. Prynne, The Church of England* old Antithesis to New Arminianismc 
(1629), sig. A2. 


the recurrent suspicion that he and his son inclined to- 
ward Catholicism accounted for a swelling of the Puri- 
tan ranks which was not always a complete endorse- 
ment of the Puritan program. 

The Arminian bishops, for all their claim to an apos- 
tolic succession, were a minority party; they were, there- 
fore, in the face of mounting opposition compelled to 
look to the throne. " Defend thou me with the sword," 
concluded Montague in his /1-pello Caesarem^ tl and I will 
defend thee with the pen/' * The speeches of the group 
carry the Reformation's apotheosis of the divine magis- 
tracy to the last degree; there was a feverish insistency 
about their phrases which suggests they were in con- 
stant apprehension lest they be not protected against 
their mortal foes. Laud's sermons to the Parliaments of 
1625 to 1628 are a case in point, but the most notorious 
instances were the famous sermons of Sibthorpe and 
Mainwaring. These utterances aroused a hue and cry, 
though actually their theoretical content was Reforma- 
tion platitude. They reiterated the familiar doctrine of 
the origin of kings: "This power is not merely human 
but superhuman and indeed no less than a power di- 
vine." Therefore, even if the King commanded flatly 
against the Word of God, we should remember that re- 
sistance to him was resistance to God, and so we should 
"endure with patience whatsoever penalty his pleasure 
should inflict upon them who in this case would desire 
rather to obey God than man." However, the sting in 
these gentlemen's renovation of the theory was their 

i. Quoted in S. R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of 
James I, vi, 203. 


decidedly specific application of it, for if resistance was 
not permissible even in the name of God's law, much less 
was it allowable for mere constitutional scruples. If the 
prince, said Sibthorpe, imposed an immoderate or un- 
just tax, the subject had no escape, "he is bound in con- 
science to submit"; if he resisted, corroborated Main- 
waring, he was "resisting the ordinance of God and 
receiving to himself damnation." * The King, in other 
words, had a divine right to tonnage and poundage! 

These quotations make comprehensible to us why in 
the course of James's reign the Puritan attack became 
in large part merged with the Parliamentary campaign 
against "unlimited exercise of the King's prerogative. 
The Puritan agitation for limitation by a divine law in 
Church affairs found a counterpart in the struggles of the 
statesmen and common lawyers for an observance of 
the fundamental law in political and legal matters. The 
close identification of the unpopular Arminian faction 
with the fullest vaunting of royal pretensions made it a 
target for men like Eliot or Pym, men who were not 
particularly Puritanical to begin with. This combina- 
tion of Puritans and Parliamentarians undoubtedly was, 
as Professor Usher declares, 2 fortuitous, since the disci- 
pline was always advanced as being self-evident, so that 
it should automatically be accepted by the ruler and 
imposed on his country. The polity was not originally 
designed to become a stalking horse for constitutional 
liberty. But its advocates had set out to get the appro- 

i. Sibthorpe and Mainwaring, quoted in Prothero, Select Statutes, pp. 437- 

1. The Reconstruction of the Church, n, 155. 


bation of the government, and when the King repulsed 
them they had to capitalize what support they could 
find in Parliament. The Parliamentarians, on the other 
hand, became more and more forced by the tactics of the 
bishops into the position of pulling the Puritans* chest- 
nuts out of the fire. The most conspicuous Arminian 
champions, Montague, Mainwaring, and Sibthorpe, 
were repeatedly attacked from the floor of the House. 
Even men who professed to reverence the order of 
bishops could not stomach some of the men who filled 
the offices, such men, for instance, as Bishop Neile, 
against whom a member from Huntingdonshire by the 
name of Oliver Cromwell delivered his maiden speech. 
The King naturally could not stand by and see his 
best friends sacrificed. James had identified the cause 
of the Crown with that of the bishops, and Charles 
identified the bishops with the Arminian party. He per- 
sisted in regarding the Arminian tenets as the pristine 
teaching of the Church; in 1627 he commanded by 
proclamation that everybody accept the Thirty-Nine 
Articles without further discussion, 1 which might have 
been interpreted to suit either Pym or Montague, 
though, as Gardiner says, there was no doubt that 
44 those who carried it into execution would interpret it 
in favor of Montague rather than of Pym. " 2 When the 
opposition at last exhausted Charles's notoriously finite 
patience, he commanded that Parliament be dismissed. 
On March 2, 1629, with the Black Rod pounding at the 
door, the House of Commons, in the midst of historic 

1. Cardwell, Documentary Annals y n, 222. 

2. Gardiner, op. ctt. t vi, 123. 


pandemonium, passed Eliot's resolution that "whoever 
shall bring in innovation of religion, or by favour or 
countenance seem to extend or introduce Popery or 
Arminianism, or other opinion disagreeing from the true 
and orthodox Church, shall be reputed a capital enemy 
to this Kingdom and Commonwealth/' x Charles, con- 
vinced that Parliament's religious zeal was a "plausible 
theme to deprave our government," 2 a design "to erect 
an universal over-swaying power to themselves, which 
belongs only to us, and not to them," 3 put Eliot and 
Selden in the Tower and announced his determination to 
rule by himself thereafter. The constitutional struggle 
had most 'evidently failed. The cause of Puritanism was 
again at an impasse. Emanuel Downing, writing to 
John Winthrop on March 6, reported the melancholy 
events of the last week and concluded, piously but 
dubiously, "the good Lord torne all to a good yssue." 4 
With Parliament gone, the Puritans had shot their 
last bolt. They were now given over, without the possi- 
bility of mitigation, to that agonizing conflict between 
their political loyalty and their religious convictions 
which all their exertions had striven to avoid. The 
human and the divine law opposed each other in every 
particular. The words which Francis Mason had uttered 
at Cambridge in 1605 contained what, twenty-four 
years later, seemed to be the inescapable dilemma: 

Then see, I beseech you, into what perplexities you cast your- 
selues. If you should conforme, you tell vs that you should sinne, 

1. Gardiner, The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, p. 82. 

2. I bid.,, p. 92. 

3. Ibid., p. 95. 

4. Massachusetts Historical Society y Collections, Series 4, vi, 36. 


because it is against your conscience; and if you doe not conforme, 
wee must tell you that you sinne, because it is vniustifiable dis- 
obedience. 1 

The terrible thing about the dilemma was that the Puri- 
tans acknowledged the full force of both aspects. They 
believed in the supremacy; they had to believe in it, be- 
cause it was the assumption of their age and because it 
was essential to their discipline. And so they swore 
fervent allegiance to a King who ingeniously tortured 
them, denied their basic conviction, assumed functions 
that belonged only to Christ, commanded their ad- 
herence to a Popish ceremonial, and deliberately en- 
joined the desecration of the Sabbath, On the other 
hand, the commands of Christ remained perfectly clear, 
and the Puritans were sure, as few men ever have been 
sure, "that wee seeke Gods glory, when wee followe 
Christe." 2 They could obey the King only at the cost of 
their eternal salvation. And they could not sidestep the 
issue; when the irrresistible force of the King's command 
clashed with the immovable object of scriptural decree, 
the Puritans had no chance to be anywhere but at the 
point of collision. Their whole cause would have been 
lost had they once broken the national uniformity; they 
could no more envisage themselves existing as a sepa- 
rate church alongside the Establishment than the prel- 
ates could have permitted it. Parliament never pro- 
posed any remedy but the compulsory maintenance of 
the proper uniformity, the condign punishment of those 
who "publish, either by word or writing, anything con- 

1. Mason, op. cit., p. 63. 

2. A Pane of a register (1590), p. 15. 


trary to orthodoxy/' 1 Yet this very uniformity once 
more required the full doctrine of the civil supremacy. 
So Puritan reasoning went round in hopeless circles, and 
Winthrop in 1629 had good cause to be worried about 
the future of England. 

The ultimate refinement in Puritan misery came from 
the reflection that if the King's eyes would only for one 
moment open to the truth, all would be well. Then he 
could enjoin uniformity, then he could be the supreme 
governor of the Church, such a governor, of course, as 
was defined by the discipline, but none the less a forcible 
upholder of orthodoxy, then political loyalty and re- 
ligious allegiance would coincide. There would then be 
no further disturbances; there would exist the ideal 
society ruled directly by Christ's laws. All the shock of 
conflict had not diminished, but rather augmented, the 
appeal of this vision. The discipline was, as Hooker 
described it, set forth under that high commanding form 
as a thing "everlastingly required by the law of that 
Lord of lords, against whose statutes there is no excep- 
tion to be taken." 2 Puritans could not arbitrate their 
cause. It was not that they refused to accept a higher 
judgment than their own; they honestly believed that 
their own judgment had not entered into the matter 
at all. They were only repeating the highest judgment 
ever recorded, and why the King would not listen to it 
was more than they ever could comprehend. 

The Puritan dilemma, as long as it continued to be 
uttered in these terms, was insoluble. The medieval 

1. Gardiner, History of England, vn, 66. 

2. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity , Preface, chap, ii, par. 2. 


principle of uniformity could not be reconciled with the 
inveterate tendency of the Reformation to produce con- 
stant variety, unless one party could secure an absolute 
control over every corner of the realm; and England was 
too complex a society to give such an opportunity to 
any one faction. But with Laud in the saddle, deter- 
mined to make a greater effort than had his predeces- 
sors, the disciplinarians could only expect to face that 
which the Admonition had originally foreseen when it 
had declared that rather than surrender they would lay 
their heads to the block, " and this shall be our peace, to 
have quiet consciences with our God." r Yet precisely 
at the moment when this dismal solution seemed to be 
the only one which ever would come out of England, a 
new enterprise was born, a way conceived of resolving 
the conflicting allegiances that had not yet been thought 
of, and that promised, with a greater degree of hard- 
ship, a greater possibility of success. Before we proceed 
to this latest proposal, however, we must still examine 
one other factor which profoundly influenced the de- 
cision and determined some of its most pronounced 

I. Frere and Douglas, Puritan Manifestoes , p. 36. 



WHEN Puritans asserted that the substitution of a 
Presbyterian polity for the episcopal hierarchy 
would not prove antagonistic to the aristocratic, cen- 
tralized character of Tudor government, they spoke 
with some show of reason. Presbyterianism involved 
certain steps in the direction of what we might call de- 
mocracy, as, for instance, the reduction of all ministers 
to a parity in rank, but it fully intended to counteract 
such tendencies by a system of control almost as cen- 
tralized and autocratic as that of the prelates. The 
various parishes were to be governed through a pyra- 
mided series of ministerial conferences, each of which 
would have absolute power over the churches within its 
jurisdiction. The first sketches of the polity provided 
for the election of ministers by the people, but later ones, 
more directly under the influence of Scotland, required 
them to be nominated by one of these assemblies, and 
only approved by the congregations. The individual 
parish might appeal from the decision of a regional 
classis to a provincial synod, and from there to the na- 
tional assembly, whose word, however, was final. The 
whole Church was to be truly a national one, including 
every person in the realm; in fact, everyone was to be 
forced into membership, to be compelled to have his 
children baptized, to attend services, and to pay tithes, 
precisely as in the Established Church. 


Reformers everywhere in the sixteenth century had 
assumed that a national church should necessarily be 
all-inclusive. Yet they always had a knotty problem on 
their hands when they came to reconcile this notion 
with the doctrine of election. If eight out of every ten 
men, even in a reformed church, were destined to perdi- 
tion, how could that church account them members at 
all? The answer, Calvin had explained, was that in 
reality there were two "churches," one composed only 
of the elect of all times and places, and the other of " the 
whole multitude, dispersed all over the world, who pro- 
fess to worship one God and Jesus Christ." x The ideal, 
he admitted, would be to gather churches exclusively of 
the elect, so that the roll-call of the Church Militant 
might be made identical with that of the Church Trium- 
phant; but, as Wyclif had long ago remarked, 2 it was 
almost impossible to tell for a certainty who was elect. 
Furthermore, the imperative demand for unity required 
that every person be subject to church censures. Calvin 
therefore concluded that, for the purposes of this world, 
*if the congregation <4 possess and honour the ministry of 
the word, and the administration of the sacraments, 
they are, without all doubt, entitled to be considered as 
a Church. ... In this manner, we preserve the unity of 
the universal Church." 3 Puritans and Anglicans, both 
aiming at exclusive sway in the kingdom, were in com- 
plete accord in this view. Those not elect, said Richard 
Field, may be in the Church, but they are not of it; 

1. Institutes, bk. iv, chap, i, par. 7. 

2. W. W. Capes, The English Church in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Ccn- 
turies^ pp. 1 1 1 ff. 

3. Calvin, op. ctt. y par. 9. 


they have fellowship in outward things, but they can 
have no part in effectual and saving grace. However, 
since unity must be preserved at all costs, every indi- 
vidual must be treated, while he lives, as a church 
member, and be subject to ecclesiastical as well as politi- 
cal rulers. 1 

This disposal of the matter, however, was far from 
satisfactory to many troubled spirits, among them a 
young Puritan of Norfolk by the name of Robert 
Browne. By the year 1581 he had come to the conclu- 
sion that a church of the elect existing within a church 
of the doomed was an anomalous arrangement, that 
there could be no true reformation on that basis. 
Whether or not he was influenced by continental Ana- 
baptism remains a moot question, but there is no doubt 
he himself thought he had found his inspiration in the 
revealed Word. After six or seven years of imprison- 
ments and persecutions Browne fell by the wayside and 
renounced his program, but other enthusiasts, though 
they repudiated his leadership and altered some details 
of his scheme, carried on what was essentially the same 
cause; and this cause must be noted as a constant factor 
in the subsequent religious history of England and New 

The polity proposed by these persons differed in two 
important respects from Presbyterianism. It intended 
in the first place to interpret predestination literally. 
Only persons who could prove that they were " re- 
deemed by Christ vnto holiness & happiness for euer" 2 

i. Richard Field, 0} the Church (1606), pp. 16-18. 

1. Williston Walker, The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism, p. 19. 


could be church members, and they could not afford to 
admit into the fellowship any of the wicked and un- 
godly, for to do so would infect and corrupt all the rest. 
The faithful, therefore, should betake themselves apart 
"from the vnbeleeuers and heathen of the land" and 
form true churches, recognizing Christ alone as their 
direct head and ruler, and permitting themselves to be 
governed only by such officers and laws as He "in his 
last will and Testament hath therevnto ordeyened." ' 
Sacraments should be administered only to received 
members and were profaned if used by or for the repro- 
bate. Though it might be difficult to tell just who was 
an elected person, still if a man could give evidence of 
Christian character and make a confession of faith be- 
fore the church, the congregation would have sufficient 
data by which to judge his "calling." A geographical 
parish, said Greenwood, could not make a church, but 
only "the profession which the people make." 2 Unless 
men uttered such public professions and were received 
by a particular congregation, they could not account 
themselves members of the visible Church. When a 
new organization was to be founded, the "visible 
saints" should come together, profess their faith, and 
take a covenant of allegiance to Christ as their king and 
prophet, and promise to be bound by His laws. This 
covenant and confession were worthless unless under- 
taken voluntarily. "To make a reformed church," said 
Robinson, "there must be first a reformed people." 3 

i. Henry Martyn Dexter, Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred 

Years, p. 222. 2. Ibid.^. 220. 

3. John Robinson, Works (ed. Robert Ash ton, Boston, 1851), n, 316. 


Consequently no official could force a church to be 
gathered, constrain an individual to join, or compel " the 
church to receive any without assurance by public pro- 
fession of their own faith; or to retain any, longer than 
they continue and walk orderly in the faith/' l Calvin, 
the Establishment, and the Puritans had all been wrong 
when they said the marks of a true church were preach- 
ing of the Word and administration of the sacraments, 
for the Word could be preached and the sacraments ad- 
ministered to "assemblies of unbelievers/' 2 The au- 
thentic touchstones of a true church were "faith" and 
"order"; only where God had called a company of His 
own together could " faith " be found, and " order " could 
exist only where they administered it. Though God 
alone knew whom He had chosen, still if the churches 
rigorously examined their candidates and kept a close 
watch over their members, they might be practically 
certain that those who took the church covenant had 
also been received into the covenant of grace with God 
Himself. The visible Church would thus become a 
genuine preparatory school for the invisible, and the 
covenanted brethren could make in it the acquaintance 
of their future neighbors in heaven. 

Congregationalism differed from Presbyterianism in 
the second place by bringing the individual associations 
of Christians into direct relations with Christ. Every 
believer, being of the elect, was made, according to 
Browne, " a Kingc, a Priest, and a Prophet vnder Christ, 

1 . Benj amin Hanbury , Historical Memorials Relating to the Independents and 
CongrcgationalistSy I, 52. 

2. Robinson, op. /'/., in, 428. 


to vpholde and further the kingdom of God/' x Every 
group of such exalted personages was therefore self- 
sufficient, was an integral unit, independent of all ex- 
ternal compulsion, and competent to manage its own 
affairs. No minister could have any authority whatso- 
ever outside his own parish. Representatives of the 
churches might be assembled for consultation, there 
might be a lawful use of "Synods, Classes, Assemblies, 
or Councils, for mutual help & advise," but only so long 
as these gatherings did not challenge any authoritative 
jurisdiction over particular congregations. 2 The whole 
superstructure of Presbyterianism and Anglicanism, the 
hierarchy of ministerial assemblies and the hierarchy of 
lords bishops, were alike declared to be disallowed by the 
Bible. Christianity should, if properly reformed, consist 
of a myriad of little groups of the proved elect, all man- 
aging their own affairs in accordance with the rules de- 
livered by Christ. And since those rules were held to be 
explicit and all-sufficient, and were to be administered 
only by God's chosen people, there would be complete 
unanimity. Ecclesiastical overseers were unnecessary. 
Although this system of ecclesiastical regimen differed 
from that of the Puritans, the men who constructed it 
went upon much the same assumption: they thought it 
was unmistakably decreed in the Bible. Their polity 
was "exactly described, distinguished, limited ... by 
most perfect and playne lawes in Gods word/' 3 All 
Christians were bound to submit to it "and not to any 

1. Walker, op. cit., pp. 22-23. 

2. Francis Johnson, A Christian Plea (1617), p. 251. 

3. " Confession " of the London- Amsterdam Church (i 596), Walker, op. cit. y 
p. 65. 


other devised by man whatsoever." x Life, as John 
Canne described it, was a sort of tight-rope act; it was as 
though a man were always walking a narrow path be- 
tween two great seas, and if he turned but a little aside, 
he would irrevocably slip into destruction; "the like 
may be said of God's pathe and institutions: if a man 
keep not full in the way, do not everything according to 
the pattern." 2 With this peril ever present to their 
thoughts, the Congregationalists abandoned completely 
every consideration but that of making the will of God 
prevail in the fashion unalterably recorded in the re- 
vealed Word. ''Unto all the power, learning, deceit, 
rage, 6f the False Church, we oppose that little Book of 
God's Word, which ... as a heavy millstone shall press 
her and all her children . . . down to hell. ... By this 
book, whoso is found in error or transgression, let them 
have sentence accordingly." 3 

If, then, this Congregationalism was surely the sole 
polity authorized by Christ, obviously the Church of 
England was in an intolerable state. And immediately 
Congregationalists had seen the Church in this light, 
they were confronted with the same problem of divided 
loyalties that the Puritans were facing. Like the latter 
they too decided that they should obey God rather than 
man. All Christians, said Browne, have a " freedome" to 
consider what is lawful; "Therefore the Magistrates 
commaundement must not be a rule vnto me . . . but as 
I see it agree with the worde of God." 4 But a different 

1. Henry Ainsworth and Francis Johnson, An Apologie (1604), p. 79. 

2. John Canne, A Necessity of Separation (Hanserd Knolles Society, 1849), 
p. 74. 3. Hanbury, of. cit. y i, 40. 

4. Reformation without tarrying (Old South Leaflets, No. 100), p. 8. 


consequence hinged upon the determination in this case, 
for loyalty to God as the Congregationalists understood 
it required not merely verbal witness to His truth, but 
an immediate action. Puritans could choose to follow 
Christ and still remain within the Church, since they 
understood Him to mean that they should work merely 
for the remodeling of the existing national institution. In 
the gospel according to Robert Browne, however, " who- 
soeuer are not gathered from all false Churches, & from 
their false gouernment, can neither be the Church of 
God, nor preachers in the same." l Christians, there- 
fore, must separate themselves not simply figuratively 
but physically: 

We may not eyther at allurement of parents, brethren, or most 
dear friends; or by the example or entisement of the multitude, or by 
the commandement of the Magistrate, doe these, or any of these 
evils: but following the word of God, to separate our selues. 2 

Hence, though with a full comprehension of what they 
were doing, these men did not hesitate to exercise their 
God-given "freedome." They set about a reformation 
"without tarrying for anie"; they came out of the 
Church which their sovereign had established and or- 
dained to be uniform throughout the nation. They 
decreed that the injunctions of God should not wait 
upon occasions for their fulfillment. Since the majority 
of people would never be capable of beginning a reforma- 
tion, the lead had to be taken by "the worthiest, Were 
they never so fewe." 3 These should not be deterred, 

1. Browne, quoted in Dexter, op. a/., p. 104. 

2. Ainsworth, The Communion of Saincts, p. 104. 

3. Browne, quoted in Dexter, op. cit. t p. 67. 


" though al the Princes of the world should prohibit the 
same vpon paine of death." I So the Word was trans- 
lated into action; although they were a pitiful "fewe," 
although the age believed that only one church at a 
time could exist within a kingdom, they set up their own 
churches and distinguished themselves from the Puri- 
tans, not only by flaunting a different discipline, but by 
enacting an actual secession. 

Superficially considered, Separatism seems to have 
been in effect a denial of the prevailing assumption con- 
cerning national uniformity; and many writers have 
written upon this understanding, ascribing to the Sepa- 
ratists' a liberalism and a tolerance utterly foreign to 
Elizabethan thinking. 2 If, however, we examine the 
writings of the men, we shall be compelled to recognize 
that though they may have strained the ideal of uni- 
formity by their conduct, they did so only inadver- 
tently, and that actually in their theory they no more 
questioned it than did their more cautious Puritan 
brethren. Like the latter, they did not seek to destroy 
the magistrate's control of the Church, but simply to 
delimit it by the Word of God. They held that the 
sovereign could not arbitrarily decide the regimen of the 
Church, but must "revyve and inquier oute the lawes of 
God which are commaunded in his word." 3 Since 
Christ had commanded that new churches were not to 
be formed by order of the magistrates, but by the vol- 

1. Barrowe, in ibid., p. 215. 

2. Cf. Herbert L, Osgood, " Political ideas of the Puritans," Political Science 
Quarterly , vi (1896), 3: "By Browne's writings religious toleration was 
first effectively proclaimed in England." 

3. Barrowe, in Egerton Papers (Camden Society, 1840), p. 169. 


untary consociation of a body of Christians, the Sepa- 
ratists obeyed Him. They ruled the prince out of the 
internal affairs of particular churches, because no inter- 
mediary should come between God and His own. Civil 
magistrates were indeed "authorized of God" and were 
"to make and execute laws by public agreement/' but 
over the churches they had "no authoritie at all, but 
onelie as anie other Christians, if so they be Chris- 
tians." J They had no right "to compell religion, to 
plant churches by power, and to force a submission to 
Ecclesiastical gouernment by lawes & penalties," be- 
cause an individual's participation in religious ordi- 
nances should be spontaneous expressions of the spirit. 2 
Magistrates, if they were Christians, should profess 
their faith before a particular congregation, and be re- 
ceived into it if they could give satisfaction; once ad- 
mitted, they could not figure in purely religious affairs 
any more than any other member, and they were, if 
necessary, even to submit to its spiritual censures, 
"openlie to humble them selues in vnfained repen- 
taunce, when they haue openlie and greuouslie tres- 
passed." For, as Browne succinctly put it, "all powers 
shall serue and obeye Christ." 3 

But beyond their categorical assertion of the duty of 
the ruler to abide by the Congregational system, the 
Separatists left his office precisely where Reformation 
theory had placed it. He was still " authorized of God " ; 4 
Queen Elizabeth, said Barrowe, was "the sacred or- 

1. Browne, Reformation without tarrying, p. 13. 

2. Ibid.) p. 13. 

3. Ibid., p. 15. 4. I bid. y p. 2. 


dinance of God, the supreme power he hath set over all 
causes & persons, whether ecclesiastical or civil/' * 
Barrowe's congregation informed her that they "gladly 
obey, and never willingly break any of her godly laws/' 
Their establishing a church without her consent was not 
actual disobedience, because they were willing to suffer 
what <4 the arm of injustice" should inflict upon them 
for having done " such things as Christ hath commanded 
us in his holy worship." They did not question that the 
government had a divine right to inflict punishment ac- 
cording to its own lights, and they always left " the 
reformation of the state to those that God hath set to 
govern that state." 2 Kenry Ainsworth, writing after 
three Separatist leaders had been executed and most of 
the faithful banished to Holland, still remained in his 
views upon political subordination completely orthodox: 

We ought to be subject to all civill Magistrates high or low, & 
that of conscience; pay them . . . their duties for their common 
wealth; to bear their exactions, oppressions, persecutions, patiently, 
without rebellion or resistance; and euen pray for them that shall so 
misuse us. 3 

Since the Separatists accepted the institution of mag- 
istracy as expounded by general Reformation theory, 
they therefore confirmed the office in the obligation to 
maintain the true discipline. Their only point was that 
the discipline should be Congregationalism. Oddly 
though it may sound to us, they condemned "separa- 
tion," understanding, however, separation from a true 

1. Burrage, Early English Dissenters, n, 104. 

2. Strype, Annals of the Reformation, iv, 131-136. 

3. The Communion of Saincts, pp. 106-107. 


church. " There is but one body, the church, and but 
one Lord, or head of that body, Christ: and whosoever 
separates from the body, the church, separates from the 
head, Christ/' J Convinced that they alone were in "ye 
right way/' the Separatists had no intention of tolerat- 
ing other sects; the "Pilgrim" pastor, John Robinson, 
bewailed the very religious hospitality of the Dutch 
which made them willing to receive him and his people. 2 
Because the profane multitude were excluded from 
church membership was no reason why they should not 
be forced to attend church services, 3 nor why civil mag- 
istrates should not "strike with their sword every one 
which . . . shal openly transgresse against the Lords 
commandements." 4 Browne himself recognized the 
danger in the centrifugal democracy of his polity and 
frankly trusted in the civil power to keep it in check: 
"If againe it be said, that while men might take & re- 
fuse their ministers as they list, all factions & heresies 
might grow I answere that the Ciuil Magistrate must 
restraine that licentiousness." s In fact it might be said 
that a passionate devotion to uniformity was the actual 
cause of the Separatists' departure; how, they asked, 
could the Puritans still remain in the Church and yet try 
to employ there different practices from what it pre- 
scribed, when everybody agreed "that the constitution, 
worship, ministrie, government, holy dayes of Church 

1. Robinson, op. cit., n, 259. 

2. Ibid. ,111,41%. 

3. Browne, An Answer to Master Cartwrights Letter, p. ii; Barrowe and 
Greenwood in Hanbury, Historical Memorials, i, 25, 52; Robinson, op. cit., 
1,42; 11,314- 

4. Dexter, op. cit., p. 85. 

5. A New Years Gift (ed. Champlin Bun-age), p. 30. 


should be uniforme, and not variable in every coast "? T 
The platform of the exiled church, published in Amster- 
dam in 1596, showed no indication that the congrega- 
tion had come to doubt the very principles upon which 
the government had acted against them; they still held 
it the duty of princes "to suppress and root out by their 
authoritie all false ministeries, voluntarie Relligions and 
counterfeyt worship of God/' and "to establish & 
mayntein by their lawes every part of Gods word, his 
pure Relligion and true ministrie . . . yea, to enforce al 
their Subiects whether Ecclesiasticall or civile, to do 
their dutyes to God and men." 2 

The Reformation was full of incongruities, but this 
contrast between Separatist preaching and practice 
seems in a fair way to cap the climax. The sect wished 
to impose an incommodious system upon the Eliza- 
bethan State, and yet, at the same time, gave complete 
allegiance to the theory upon which the State proceeded 
against it. The only explanation can be that the Sepa- 
ratists, like the Puritans, were preaching a crusade, all 
the more furiously because they had much less hope 
of ever succeeding. Distinctions between State and 
Church were to be sharpened, but this was only to 
mean that the magistrates, when properly limited, 
would be genuine allies of the Church, accommodating 
the government to the true institution and enforcing 
conformity to it. Congregationalism, Robinson assures 
us, was far from intending that civil rulers might not use 
their "lawful power lawfully for the furtherance of 

i. Ainsworth, quoted in John Paget, An Arrow against the Separation oj the 
Brownists (1618), p. 5. 2. Walker, op. /., p. 71. 


Christ's kingdom. ... It is true they have no power 
against the laws, doctrines, and religion of Christ; but 
for the same, if their power be of God, they may use it 
lawfully, and against the contrary." ' To the Separa- 
tists, Separation was a means to an end, a step toward 
the Congregationalizing of England. 2 Bishop Hall made 
precisely that point when he told the exiles, "Our land 
you could like well, if you might be lords alone/' 3 
Should their discipline have triumphed the Separatists 
were perfectly equipped to dictate the religious life of 
the nation. They never thought Christ had been so 
foolish as to intend dispensing with the assistance of the 
secular arm: " Unless the Magistrate doe vphold his 
honour against Sathan, it will fall to the ground, for 
ought men can see/' 4 

Because the Separatists were few and inconspicuous 
they cannot be said to have figured prominently on the 
English political stage. Their principles have been 
dwelt upon here at perhaps undue length because they 
illustrate the tyranny which the ideals of uniformity 
and of civil maintenance of orthodoxy exercised over 
the mind of that age. However, the Separatists were 
important in the total situation, if not for themselves, 
at least for the reactions they evoked and the issues 
they raised. They represented something the Puritans 

1. Works, in, 277. 

2. Burrage, op. a/., I, 104 ff. 

3. "A common apology of the Church of England" (1610), Works, ix, 102. 

4. Pierce, John Penry, p. 160. Cf. Robert William Dale, History of English 
Congregationalism, p. 170; Allen, The History of Political Thought in the 
Sixteenth Century^ p. 229; Henry W. Clark, History of English Noncon- 
formity, i, 200; Dexter, op. cit. t p. 282; Walker, op. cit., p. 46. 


denied, a denial which further accentuated certain 
characteristics which were to play a large part in deter- 
mining the ecclesiastical disposition of New England. 
The Separatists quite logically regarded their own 
conduct as infinitely more consistent than the Puri- 
tans'. As long as the central issue was defined as the 
Puritans had defined it, that church discipline was 
given of God and that all else beyond what was so given 
was unlawful, then the Church of England was impos- 
sible. If the reading ministry, for instance, "be noe 
office nor callinge appointed by Christ, then is it an 
office of Antichrist . . . therefore we ought not to re- 
ceiue or heare such a ministerie." l But Puritans re- 
fused to draw this conclusion. They were waiting for a 
legal reformation by the magistrate, because only by 
proceeding in that fashion could they remain politically 
respectable. According to Separatist reasoning, how- 
ever, they were proving traitor to the real cause; they 
were betraying "not onlye themselves . . . but even 
Christ Jesus him self & his gospell into the hands of 
antichrist "; 2 they were admitting that after all polity 
did not depend exclusively upon God but waited upon 
the approbation of magistrates. "You colour all this 
with a cloake of tarying for further authority, & yet you 
say you are sent of God, & called of the Church, & yet 
you stay for further authority than these . . . offered 
you." 3 For it was from the Puritans themselves that 

1. Browne, An Answer to Master Cartwrights Letter, pp. 125, 127. 

2. Barrowe, "Four principal! and waighty causes," Congregational Historical 
Society transactions (1906), p. 292. 

3. Harrison, "A treatise of the Church and Kingdome of Christ," in Albert 
Peel, The Erownists in Norwich and Norfolk about /5<fr>, pp. 58, 41. 


Separatists first learned to see the ungodly blemishes in 
the Church of England. "Thus haue we been taught by 
your selues, what corruptions there are in the Church "; 
yet when Separatists, acting upon these very teachings, 
fled from corruptions, the Puritans, their erstwhile mas- 
ters, hung back and told them they were seduced. "Are 
not you then/' Ainsworth pertinently asked, "the se- 
ducers*" * It can, I believe, be truthfully said that 
during the entire period the Separatists were attacking 
the Puritans with greater vehemence than they were the 
hierarchy. In Separatist eyes the Puritans were playing 
Judas to the bishops' Pilate, and their sin was incom- 
parably " the greater and more fear full, whiles contrary 
to theyr knowledge they wittingly persist in disobedience 
against Jesus Christ.'' 2 

This sally upon the Puritan flank was enthusiasti- 
cally applauded by the churchmen. As long as the 
Separatists were not personally too formidable, the 
hierarchy was almost delighted with them; they offered 
a golden opportunity to cry "I told you so." "The 
foolish Barrowist," Hooker announced, "deriveth his 
schism by way of conclusion, as to him it seemeth, di- 
rectly and plainly out of your principles/' 3 Since the 
Establishment had long been asserting that Puritan 
principles led inevitably to schism, it was only too happy 
to approve the Barrowist's logic. Bishop Burgess 
heartily declared that if he himself believed as did the 
Puritans, "I professe in Gods presence, I would pro- 

1. Counterpoyson, pp. 3-4. 

2. Johnson, A 'Treatise oj the Ministry -, p. 32. 

3. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Preface, chap, viii, par. i. 


claime separation from idolatrous worship, and Wor- 
shippers this day ere I sleepe; And not halte, as these 
men (by their own positions doe) betwixt Idolatrie and 
Religion" l 

The Separatist attack and the uses the hierarchy 
made of it put the Puritans in something of a quandary. 
That Separation did grow out of the Puritan movement 
seemed almost undeniable,, but the Puritans were noth- 
ing if not excellent casuists and could, if given half a 
chance, argue their way out of anything. They now set 
themselves to prove that Separation was none of their 
doing. Once again they followed the footsteps of their 
master at Geneva. When a church was hopelessly cor- 
rupt, as Rome was, then Calvin had proclaimed that we 
must separate from it, because there could be no Chris- 
tian unity in it; but where the essentials of a true church 
existed, ministry and sacraments, then such a society 
could not be rejected, " although it may be chargeable 
with many faults/' 2 He who withdrew himself from an 
essentially true church was "a traitor and apostate 
from religion/' 3 From the very first Cartwright had 
affirmed that the Church of England was a "true 
church/' 4 and therefore he wanted its formal unity 
preserved : 

We make no separation from the Church; we go about to separate 
all those things that offend in the Church, to the end that we, being 
knit to the sincere truth of the Gospel, might afterwards in the same 
bond be more nearly and closely joined together. 5 

1. Burgess, An answer rejoined, pp. 235-236. 

2. Institutes, bk. iv, chap, i, par. 12. 

3. Ibid., par. 10. 4. Whitgift, Works, i, 93. 
5. Ibid., p. 102; cf. Pearson, Thomas Cartwright, p. 441. 


As long as Puritans were committed wholly to the ideal 
of uniformity, as long as the cooperation of magistrates 
was the sine qua non of their system, as long as their 
ambition was the ultimate domination of a national in- 
stitution, they had to pass as loyal sons of the Church. 
They might pick flaws, but they could not admit it had 
accumulated more corruptions than could be put up 
with if necessary. For Puritans to have granted the 
Separatist argument would have been not only for them 
to prove themselves hypocrites in the eyes of the govern- 
ment, but to undermine the sway they were preparing to 
establish on their day of triumph. Clearly the Sepa- 
ratists would as readily depart from a Presbyterian 
establishment as from an episcopal: "The reasons before 
noted, which warrant our separation from England, are 
a sufficient ground to keep us from you." l As soon, 
therefore, as Browne's schism was known at Antwerp, 
Cartwright pronounced him in error and had his works 
condemned by the congregation. 2 Innumerable Puritan 
pamphleteers hastened to deny the basic Congrega- 
tional tenet that only the chosen should be church mem- 
bers, insisting that a true church must necessarily be 
made up of both elect and reprobate. It might, said 
Dayrell, even be so "ouerspread with wicked, that the 
righteous can hardly bee discerned, no more then the 
wheate that lieth hid vnder the chaffe." * If Puritans 
ever had accounted the Established Church "meerly 
and absolutly Antichristian," then Cartwright could 

I. Ainsworth, as quoted in Paget, An Arrow against the Separation oj the 

Brownists (1618), p. 5. 
1. Pearson, op. cit. y p. 212. 
3 . Dayrell , A Treatise oj the Church ( 1 6 1 7) , p. 3 1 . 


"see not how yt could be avoyded but that we must with 
ye Brownistes confesse that we have noe church at all in 
ye Land." ' But they never granted such an assump- 
tion. So determined, indeed, were the Puritans to down 
the suggestion that they in any way fomented Separa- 
tion, that they actively sought out opportunities to de- 
fend the very institution they were maligning, or, as the 
Separatist Confession of 1596 put it, "to dawbe vp that 
ruinous antichristian muddy wall, which themselves did 
once craftily vndermine." 2 They appeared, therefore, 
at one and the same time as critics and protagonists, and 
deliberately championed whatever in the Church they 
could still feel capable of being defended. Even the 
reckless Martin Marprelate made that matter plain: 
"For Martin . . . you must understand, doth account 
no Brownist to be a Puritan." 3 

To modern ways of thinking there may be very little 
difference between those who called everything about 
the Church corrupt, and those who called the Church 
itself corrupt. And indeed there can be no doubt that 
the Puritans often overstepped the limits of mere pas- 
sive dissent. 4 As Fuller said about the business, "It is 
impossible to make a subordination in their practices, 
who have an opposition in their principles." 5 Yet that 
was precisely what the Puritans were seeking to do for a 
half century after Robert Browne preached Separation. 
But the point is that whatever the facts, Puritans re- 

i. Pearson, op. '/., p. 310. 2. Walker, op. cit., p. 54. 

3. The Marprelate Tracts (cd. Pierce), p. 252. 

4. Cf. Roland G. Usher, The Presbyterian Movement in the Reign of Queen 
Elizabeth , passim. 

5. Fuller, Church History, bk. ix, sec. v, par. 2. 


fused to face them. They were not publicly Separatists, 
they could still make a show of submission to authority, 
and that show, they held, was sufficient to attest their 
political orthodoxy. We may, if we like, think them 
sophists, but that should not blind us to the issue. By 
twisting their way between episcopacy and Separation, 
the Puritans preserved intact the principles of uni- 
formity and of civil and ecclesiastical cooperation, the 
principles which had come down to them from the Mid- 
dle Ages and which were unquestionably presupposed in 
all social thinking of the time. The Separatists actually, 
as we have just seen, no more infringed upon these 
principles in their theory than did any other group, and 
would, if they could have had their way, have made 
them prevail as relentlessly in practice. By their sepa- 
ration they intended only to break the rule for the time 
being, in order that it might eventually be enforced in 
the proper form. But this was a hazard the Puritans 
could not take. Not only was there practically no hope 
of conquering that way, but even if they had staged a 
successful ecclesiastical revolution, there was no reason 
the same tactics could not be employed against them at 
a later date. And so, when Puritans faced the impasse 
to which it seemed Charles's dismissal of Parliament had 
brought them, there still was one other tremendous reso- 
lution in their creed which at the moment made their 
dilemma even more insoluble. And that was that at no 
time had they ever been, or would they ever become, 
Separatists from the Church of England, nor could any- 
one, in justice or reason, derive Separation out of their 



FOR what we may apologetically term pedagogical 
purposes, we have hitherto considered Puritanism 
as practically synonymous with Presbyterianism. Al- 
though we have admitted that this is a stringent restric- 
tion of the term, we have seen that it does not alto- 
gether violate the facts, for the core of the Puritan 
movement was undoubtedly constituted by that group 
who wished the ecclesiastical system of Geneva and 
Scotland to prevail in England. It is, of course, demon- 
strable that many, perhaps the greater number, of re- 
puted Puritans entertained but vague conceptions of 
the discipline. Moreover, the first English sketches of 
Presbyterianism, those of Cartwright, Travers, and 
Udall, were of a somewhat Utopian character, and many 
of the disciples seem to have accepted them without 
possessing any too concise notions of detailed provisions. 
Those who encouraged the movement chiefly as a means 
of protest against Stuart absolutism were even less 
aware of specific plans. When Hyde asked Fiennes in 
the summer of 1641 what government he and his party 
wished to substitute for the hierarchy, Fiennes answered 
"that there would be time enough to think of that"; 1 
and when Sir Philip Warwick asked Cromwell the same 
question, he blurted out, "I can tell you, Sirs, what I 

i. Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon (Oxford, 1827), I, 90-91. 


would not have, tho' I cannot, what I would." I Richard 
Baxter affirms that before the year 1641 he had " never 
thought what Presbytery or Independency was, nor 
ever spoke with a man who seemed to know it"; 2 and all 
dissenting schemes looked so much alike to the authori- 
ties that Laud inscribed an intercepted document de- 
scribing the Congregationalism of Massachusetts, 
" Great newes out of New England touching the presby- 
terial government as it seems established there." 3 As 
long as the reform remained primarily a negative move- 
ment, as long as the suppressing activities of the gov- 
ernment held discussion down, and as long as many 
individuals became allied with the movement out of 
antagonism to the Court, the " Puritan party" re- 
mained amorphous. 

However, in combating Separatists the Presbyterian 
advocates took some steps toward clarifying their pro- 
posal. Not only were they compelled to condemn the 
act of separation, but they had as well to refute the Con- 
gregational interpretation of the Bible. They denied 
the existence of scriptural warrant for discrimination in 
the admission of church members, and emphasized ex- 
plicitly the legal power of the classes and synods. But 
in an age when men habitually made a fetish of the 
literal application of Scripture, and assiduously racked 
their consciences to find more and more rigorous meth- 
ods of subjecting themselves to Christ, one who entered 
the polemical lists to combat a radical interpretation of 

1. Sir Philip Warwick, Memoirs oj the Reign of King Charles 7 (London, 
1701), p. 177. 

2. Hanbury, Historical Memorials , n, 69. 

3. Cal. St. Pap., Colonial y i, 194. 


the Bible always ran the risk of finding that very radi- 
calism attractive. Precisely this had happened in the 
case of Francis Johnson, who, as a Puritan, undertook 
to refute Congregationalism, was overpowered by the 
proof Barrowe offered, and turned Separatist himself. 1 
Since historical Biblical scholarship was practically non- 
existent, a man's personal reaction to the cryptic utter- 
ances of the Word was bound to be his ultimate criterion 
of what they signified. 

Thus, though Separatism as an organized movement 
was fairly well dispersed, still the discipline it proposed 
was at least plausibly construed from the Bible. During 
the reign of James we suddenly encounter a small group 
of men who were to all intents and purposes Puritans, 
who were insistently anti-Separatists, but who had, 
nevertheless, quietly accepted the Separatists' disci- 
pline. The genesis of their opinion is unfortunately not 
to be traced in the present state of our knowledge, but 
Henry Jacob seems to offer an indication of what hap- 
pened. He began as a regular Puritan, and was among 
the dissenting ministers who endeavored to demon- 
strate their loyalty to the Church by nagging Separatist 
prisoners in the Clink; his correspondence with Francis 
Johnson, published in 1599 as A defence of the Churches 
and Ministry of England, was one of the host of Puritan 
condemnations of the Separatist way. In 1603 he was a 
moving spirit in the Millenary Petition, which he ad- 
vanced in the interests of Presbyterianism; but in the 
following year, in his Reasons taken out of Gods Word, he 

i. William Bradford, "Dialogue," Alexander Young, Chronicles oj the Pil- 
grim Fathers, pp. 424-425. 


suddenly emerged as an advocate of a clearly Congrega- 
tional reformation. How much of his conversion he 
owed to Johnson cannot be determined, but the fact 
remains that he was converted. 1 The development of 
other men in the group is even more mysterious than 
that of Jacob, but their published works indisputably 
reveal that whatever their starting points, they came 
ultimately to the same termination. 

In addition to Jacob the school produced at least four 
conspicuous spokesmen. There was Robert Parker 
(died 1617), who fled from the spiritual courts to Hol- 
land in 1607 and was for a time associated with Jacob at 
Leyden. William Bradshaw (died 1618) published the 
fullest account of the group's tenets in a series of able 
anonymous pamphlets, which historians have strangely 
overlooked. He was the centre of an important group 
of ministers in the vicinity of Stephenhill, Derbyshire. 
Paul Baynes (died 1617) was the preacher of the school. 
He was lecturer at St. Andrews, Cambridge, but was de- 
prived for nonconformity, and led thereafter a peripa- 
tetic existence as the guest of Puritan patrons all over 
England. Greatest of the lot undoubtedly was Dr. 
William Ames (died 1633), about whom the others 
seem to have revolved. He was a student and friend of 
Baynes, was in communication with Bradshaw, and was 
associated with Jacob and Parker at Leyden in 1610. 
He was, moreover, a man of international importance, 
adviser to the Calvinist party at the Synod of Dort, for 
ten years professor of theology at the University of 

i. Dictionary of National Biography , Burrage, Early English Dissenters , i, 
281-286; II, 292-293. 


Franeker, and the author of several widely circulated 
theological tomes. 

The writings of these men, although showing some 
minor divergences, reveal their agreement upon the two 
essential features of the Congregational polity, i.e., 
restriction of church membership to the proved elect 
and the autonomy of particular congregations. Jacob 
defined a church, in 1605, as " a particular Congregation 
being a spirituall perfect Corporation of Believers, & 
having power in it selfe immediately from Christ to ad- 
minister all Religious meanes of faith to the members 
thereof." l It was, he later put it more happily, " an en- 
tire and Independent body-politic." 2 It could be formed 
only by "a free mutuall consent of Believers joyning & 
covenanting to live as Members of a holy Society to- 
geather in all religious & vertuous duties as Christ & his 
Apostles did institute & practise in the Gospell." 3 After 
1604 he constantly attacked Presbyterianism: " I affirme 
that No Synod vnder ye Gospell hath power by Gods 
ordinance to prescribe & rule Ecclesiastically sundry 
whole Churches if they consent not." 4 In 1610 he pre- 
sented one of his many petitions to James, which mon- 
arch at once perceived the rift in the Puritan ranks, for 
where Jacob had declared against synods, James imme- 
diately wrote in the margin, " But in this, your Skottish 
brethren are endewed with a contraire light." 5 Brad- 

1. Ibid., ii, 157. 

2. "A Declaration and Plainer Opening" (1612), Hanbury, Historical 
Memorials, i, 231. 

3. Burrage, op. cit., u, 157. 

4. Ibid., p. 165. 

5. John Waddington, Congregational History , n, 176. 


shaw declared, " We confine and bound all Ecclesiastical 
power within the limits onely of one particular Congre- 
gation, holding that the greatest Ecclesiastical power 
ought not to stretch beyond the same/' x A church 
should consist only of " true beleevers, joyning together 
according to the order of the Gospell," 2 and it could not 
be subjected "to any other Superiour Ecclesiasticall 
Jurisdiction, then unto that which is within it selfe"; 
over it " there is noe superior Pastor but onely Jesus 
Christ/' If a church is in error, officers of other churches 
have no power to censure or punish it, " but are onely to 
counsel! or advise the same/' 3 Bradshaw was as much 
opposed to the Presbyterians as to the bishops: "Thou 
maist herein observe," he said in the preface to his most 
important work, English Puritanisme, "what a terrible 
Popedome & Primacie these rigid Presbyterians desire. 
And with what painted bugbeares and Scare Crowes 
the Prelates goe about to fright the State of the King- 
dome." 4 Baynes preached Congregationalism up and 
down England; John Robinson attributed to one of his 
sermons his own realization that mixed congregations 
were unlawful. 5 Baynes's most important work, The 
Diocesans Trial \ issued posthumously in 1621, was an 
attack upon all ecclesiastical superstructures. "We 
affirme that no such head Church was ordained either 
virtually or actually, but that all Churches were singu- 

1. "Protestation of the King's supremacie" (1605), Several treatises of wor- 
ship and ceremonies (1660), pp. 91-92. 

2. English Puritanisme (ed. 1640), p. 6. 

3. I bid. y pp. 7, ii. 

4. I bid.y p. 2. 

5. Robinson, "A Manvmission to a Manvdiction" (1615), Mass. Hist. Soc., 
Co//., Series 4, 1, 190. 


lar congregations, equall, independent each of other, in 
regard of subjection. " l For a congregation to be sub- 
ject "to a Presbyterie, as not having power of govern- 
ing themselves within themselves," was to his way of 
thinking as bad as for it to be subject to a bishop. 2 
When Parker sojourned with Jacob at Leyden he pro- 
fessed "the use of Synods was for counsell and advice 
onely, but had not authority to give definite sentence in 
the judging of causes"; he later, however, proved apos- 
tate to the cause and joined himself with John Paget, 
an exiled Puritan then ministering in Amsterdam to an 
English Presbyterian church. For this defection of 
Parker's' Paget says that "some of Mr. Jacobs minds 
were offended with him," 3 but he had already done his 
important work, and John Cotton cited him along with 
Baynes and Ames as a protagonist of Congregational- 
ism. 4 William Ames gave Bradshaw's English Puri- 
tanisme an international circulation by translating it 
into Latin in 1610, and he rescued Baynes's Diocesans 
Trial from oblivion. Paget says he often complained to 
Ames that Bradshaw's title implied a grave injustice to 
the majority of English Puritans, who held nothing like 
the tenets the book set forth, but Ames put him off by 
saying it "did not affirme those to be the opinions of all, 
but onely of the Rigidest sort of those that arc called Puri- 
fanes." 5 He wrote the preface to Baynes's book, " main- 

1. The Diocesans Trial (1621), p. 13. 

2. Ibid., p. 21. 

3. Paget, A Defence of Church Government (1641"), p. 105. 

4. John Cotton, The tt'ay of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648), pt. 
II, p. 23. 

5. Paget, op. cit., pp. 106, 200. 


taining the divine constitution of a particular Church, 
in one Congregation/' * and subtly disseminated the 
doctrine in his great works, his Medulla Theologiae and 
his De Conscientia. 

It will be noticed that the principles of this school 
found their fullest expression in Holland. In England, 
where all Puritan energies were directed against the 
common foe, the hierarchy, differences between the two 
wings of the party did not become prominent; but when 
exiled Puritans gained an opportunity to attempt a 
positive reformation in the Low Countries, their diver- 
gences became apparent, and their verbal controversies 
of this date anticipate the historic rift of the Presby- 
terians and Independents in the 1 640*8. John Paget 
took up the defense of the Presbyterian cause, and what 
light early Congregationalists do not throw upon the 
cleavage themselves can be supplemented by his de- 
scriptions. He defined the polity of Jacob and Ames 
accurately as one " whereby Particular Congregations 
are made to be Independent, not standing under any 
other ecclesiastical authority out of themselves/' * He 
had the acumen to see that this polity was essentially 
the same as that of the Separatists. 3 So conspicuous 
had become the split between the two factions of Eng- 
lish Puritan exiles that when a friend of Ames, John 
Forbes, petitioned the Dutch Synod to permit the erec- 
tion of an independent English classis, the Dutch 
officials refused because, they said, too many of the 

1. 'The Diocesans Trial, sig. Bi recto. 

2. Paget, "Answer to an unjust complaint" (1635), Hanbury, Historical 
Memorials, i, 527. 

3. Paget, A Defence of Church Government (1641), p. 30. 


English ministers were either Brownists or " Brownisti- 
cally affected in particular opinions/' because they 

condemne the Decisive & Judging power of all Classes & Synods; & 
that they have only a power of Counsailing & advising, because every 
particular Congregation is a church; and that a Compleat church, 
and that it is Immediately given vnto every congregation from Christ 
to be a single & vncompounded policy. 

These, the Synod declared, "are the very words of Mr. 
Jacob, & Parker, & Baines." J 

There can be little doubt that these men were Con- 
gregationalists. But there can also be no doubt that 
though their discipline was the same as that of the 
Separatists, and though they were just as much opposed 
to Presbyterianism, they were not themselves Separa- 
tists. They would admit being the "rigidest sort of 
Puritans," but nothing more. Jacob, recognizing the 
similarity of his program with the polity of Separatists, 
could say that he did not regard them as " being so evill 
as commonly they are held to be," but as for himself, 
"I never was, nor am, separated from all public com- 
munion with the congregations of England." 2 "The 
Lord knoweth there is none in England more unwilling 
to runne vpon this rocke then I." 3 Even when in 1616 
he set up a Congregational church in Southwark, the 
group protested that they "never intended separation 
from the Church of England." 4 At no time, Cotton 
says, was Parker "one of those whom you call Brown- 

1. Burrage, op. cit. y n, 271; CaL St. Pap., Domestic, 1635, vo ^ CCLXXXVI 
No. 94. 

2. "A declaration and plainer opening" (1612), Hanbury, op. cit. y I, 230. 

3. Reasons taken out of God's Word, p. 50. 

4. Burrage, op. cit., I, 172. 


ists, or such like Separatists, but wrote against them." x 
Ames consistently condemned the Separation in his 
larger works, and he boasted to the bishops with, as we 
shall see, some show of reason that he and his friends 
had " soundly confuted" the Brownists. 2 In fact, one 
of the greatest testimonies to the position of the school 
was the influence it exerted upon John Robinson. In 
1610, when Parker, Ames, and Jacob were in Leyden, 
they conferred long and laboriously with the Pilgrim 
pastor, 3 and they so much convinced him of the superior 
wisdom of their Non-separating position that he did all 
in his power to retrace his steps in their direction. Since 
he had so vigorously spoken for the way of " rigid Sepa- 
ration" he could not entirely renounce it, but he did 
come "more than halfe way of any just distance" 4 by 
conceding that the Church of England possessed some 
marks of a true church, and that therefore persons might 
be saved though they remained in it, and that Sepa- 
ratists might lawfully hear its ministers. "I did," he 
says, " through my vehement desire of peace, and weak- 
ness withal, remit and lose my former resolution: and 
did, to speak as the truth is, forget some of my former 
grounds." s Paget, ever on the lookout for Congrega- 
tional inconsistencies, claimed at once that when Robin- 
son made these concessions he lost his whole case; how, 
he asked, could Robinson admit persons to his congre- 
gation without requiring them first to renounce their 

1. Cotton, 'The Way 0} the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. n, p. 12. 

2. A Reply to Dr. Morton's Generall Defence (1622), p. 31. 

3. William Bradford, "Dialogue," Alexander Young, Chronicles of the Pil- 
grim Fathers, p. 439; Cotton Mather, Magnalia, bk. I, chap, ii, par. I. 

4. Cotton, op. cit. y pt. i, pp. 7-8. 5. Robinson, Works, in, 103. 


allegiance to the Church of England, "seeing that by 
your reasoning they are tyed in the cords of sin?" T The 
Separatists could not, however, come all the way back, 
but they saw the advantage of the less rigorous position 
and availed themselves of it as far as they could. When 
the congregation wished official permission for their mi- 
gration to America they loyally protested that, as they 
held the doctrine of the Church was sound, they there- 
fore could willingly acknowledge that "saving fayth" 
was begotten "in thousands in ye land (conformists & 
reformistes) as ye ar called," with both of whom they 
desired to maintain spiritual communion "as with our 
brethereh." 2 

When men in good Queen Bess's day had become con- 
vinced God wished them to be Congregationalists, in 
their straightforward fashion they could see no way to 
avoid separating from the Church of England. Yet here 
we are confronted with a group of Congregationalists, 
men skilled in the logic of the schools, who believed 
quite as sincerely in the same divinely appointed polity, 
and who yet refused to make the fatal deduction of 
Separation. We can easily appreciate their motive, for 
events had proved that in the way of Separation political 
madness lay. And yet by all the laws of logic, did not 
Congregationalism make Separation imperative, and 
was not such a furtive institution as Jacob's Southwark 
church a schismatical enterprise? How could these men 
justify the glaring inconsistencies of their position? 

i. Paget, An Arrow against the Separation oj the Brownists (1618), pp. 13, 

31, 62. 
i. Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 89; cf. Bradford, Dialogue, p. 457- 


By the exercise of a superlative genius for casuistry, 
the school did make out a case, it did find ways to 
reconcile irreconcilables. Its solution may seem to us 
utterly fantastic, we may with difficulty believe that 
any men, much less sincerely religious men, ever told so 
thin a story and then so doggedly stuck to it; but to 
understand the operations of their minds we must 
realize what they conceived was at stake, what tremen- 
dous urgencies drove them to such desperate shifts. 
Separatists had flown in the face of the deepest political 
conviction of the sixteenth century, a conviction that 
was fortified not only by the prevailing philosophy of 
social cohesion and subordination, but by centuries of 
experience. They not merely attacked certain vested in- 
terests, but by rending the seamless garment of the 
Church they opened up a whole prospect of social de- 
moralization. When, therefore, the "Jacobites," as 
Paget called them, confronted the problem of reforma- 
tion, they were completely pervaded by the Puritan 
determination to keep themselves clear of Separation at 
'all costs. Though they might strain their metaphysics 
to the breaking point, they were compelled by hook or 
by crook to reconcile their Congregational dissent with 
the inviolable preservation of the principle of uniform- 
ity. Their plea might be a cobweb of sophistry, their 
conduct might amount to virtual schism, but that did 
not matter if by their own rationalizations they could 
write for themselves a clean bill of political health. 

The Separatist argument had been phrased in this 
fashion: a church could not be a true church wherein the 
elect communicated with the reprobate; in the Church 


of England the elect did so communicate; ergo, the 
Church of England was a false church. The Non- 
separating Congregationalists necessarily began with 
the same assumption; the only way, then, in which 
they could break the chain of this syllogism was by 
denying the minor premise, by asserting that the Church 
of England was a true one, or, to speak more accurately, 
by asserting that the churches of England were true 
churches. Manifestly they did not seem so, but Presby- 
terians had already hinted at a way in which the asser- 
tion might be risked, with their ingenious distinction 
between a true " substance " and a number of false but 
not mortal " accidents/' Still, it had been a compara- 
tively easy matter for Cartwright and the Presbyterians 
to read their plan into the Church of England, for they 
called at the utmost for a mere remodeling of the exist- 
ing structure, and they confidently expected to rebuild 
upon the same foundations. But when Ames and Brad- 
shaw set about to prove to an unsuspecting nation that 
the " substance'' of the established parishes was, au 
fond y Congregational, they had very considerably to 
extend the list of "accidents." They had to condemn not 
only ceremonies and ritual, but the very idea of a cen- 
tralized government and at least two thirds of the 
church membership. These items they did not intend to 
remodel but to dispense with entirely. They had to 
have the effrontery to allege that by these extensive 
nullifications they would be touching nothing vital, but 
only stripping superficial encumbrances from the true 
churches, that somehow, unbeknownst to the bishops 
and the government, a number of " saints " in each parish 


of the realm had for ages been unconsciously functioning 
in an essentially Congregational manner. It takes, to 
say the least, a large audacity to pretend when you are 
amputating limbs that you are only removing warts 
and moles, but these ecclesiastical surgeons were in all 
seriousness making precisely such an asseveration. 

The Separatists, they said, had made a mistake, not 
in their conception of polity, but in their rash conclusion 
that the churches in England varied from the true pat- 
tern so far that it could no longer be discerned within 
them. The parish assemblies might be decayed, but 
they were not beyond repair. If one tried, he could still 
discover the kernel of truth in the husks of corruption. 
True, the laws did maintain many corrupt practices, 
"yet so long as we doe not actually communicate in 
those corruptions, but onely in the true parts of Gods 
worship, our communicating is never the worse for the 
said Laws of men/' ' At this point a puzzled John Rob- 
inson rose to object: were not all people in England 
forced to attend Communion, and was not a set form of 
prayer then used, and were not these things simply un- 
lawful? Indeed, Ames blandly returned, they were, but 
they were matters which could be disregarded, "seeing 
there are many exercises of religion, wherein none are 
present by constraint, and where the service book doeth 
not so much as appeare." 2 As long as the Church of 
England left a remote possibility for the occasional exist- 
ence of these voluntary services, it was paying tribute 
to the substratum of Congregationalism in its make-up, 

1. William Bradshaw, The Unreasonableness of the separation (1640), p. 107. 

2. Ames, A Manvdiction for Mr. Robinson (1614), sig. Q4 recto. 


and to that extent remained a true church. We should 
labor while we were in it to make its membership pure, 
but from a fundamentally true church "in which some 
wicked men are tollerated, we must not presently 
separate." * 

But, the Separatist persisted, you teach that churches 
should properly be founded upon a covenant; have the 
parish assemblies sworn to any? No, they had not done 
so formally and publicly, but that did not hinder their 
having done practically the same thing. Whenever 
" good Christians" assembled to worship God, and did 
so voluntarily, were they not moved by a visible desire 
to serve Christ in Christian fellowship? So, then, they 
could be said to have "the essentiall & integral! forme 
of a visible church . . . howsoever they are defective in 
the puritie of their combination, & in the complete free 
exercising of their power." 2 They may never have ex- 
pressly ratified a covenant, but in some rare spiritual 
sense it had to be predicated: 

There wants not that reall and substantial! comming together, 
(or agreeing in Covenant, though more implicate then were meete) 
and that substantiall profession of Faith, which (thanks be to God) 
hath preserved the essence of visible Churches in England unto this 
day. 3 

If the good Christians of a parish came to service volun- 
tarily, they could then disregard the unregenerate who 
were constrained to be present, and assume that they 
alone were assembling to covenant with God. By the 

1. Ames, Conscience, p. 62. 

2. Ames, A Second Manvdiction for Mr. Robinson (1615), p. 34. 

3. Robert Parker, quoted in Richard Mather, An Apohgie of the Chvrches 
in New England (1643), P- 3 6 - 


difference of their motive they became as much sepa- 
rated from the unregenerate " as is of absolute necessitie 
to the being of a true church." l Separation from such a 
congregation was, therefore, an inconsiderate and schis- 
matical act. 

The prize bit of circumlocution in this reasoning was 
evoked by the question of the ministry. In Congrega- 
tional theory pastors ought to be chosen by the people; 
in Anglican practice they were nominated by a patron 
and installed by a bishop. Could these two principles be 
reconciled, so that pastors might be Congregationalists 
and still retain their offices? Nothing, it seemed, was 
simpler. If an Anglican clergyman based his calling 
upon an episcopal ordination, believing he had acquired 
the indelible character of a minister quite apart from his 
belonging to a particular flock, he was doing something 
"unlawful and sinful." 2 But in actuality, once a man 
was ordained he was assigned to a particular parish. 
What, pray tell, was then to hinder the godly of the 
parish from accepting him as their pastor and consider- 
ing their acceptance as the " substance" of his calling? 
The other business could be regarded as negligible 
abracadabra. A patron's nomination could not create a 
valid summons, "yet the after consent of the people, by 
acceptance and submission, may make it good"; 3 a 
man could not become pastor of a parish because a 
bishop invested him, but he could because " a believing 
Congregation . . . consenteth to have him." 4 

1 . Ames, op. cit. , p. 3 1 . 

2. Jacob, A Confession and Protestation (1616), p. 20. 

3. John Davenport, An Apologetic all Reply (1636), p. 46. 

4. Jacob, op. 19. 


The true ratification and warrant of our Ministers calling which is 
by Gods word, standeth in this, & only in this, that our Visible 
Churches do consent and accept them whom they receave for such. 
. . . And this their consent, I acknowledge, giveth them (before 
God) their Ministry, though conioyned with many, great, & pub- 
lique corruptions otherwayes. 1 

The candidate could go through the rite of ordination 
by the bishop with mental reservations; he need not 
thereby "implie an acknowledgement of his lawfull 
authoritie from whome it is sought/' 2 As long as it 
remained possible for a divine to pick his diffident 
way through the morass of Anglican corruptions, and 
with the aid of a few pardonable pretences to hold him- 
self comparatively uncontaminated by them, he could 
continue to be in reality a Congregational pastor, how- 
ever externally he appeared to be a priest in the Estab- 
lishment. Therefore his parishioners should not separate 
from him. 

When Ames labored to make this abstruse point 
clear to John Robinson, the latter not unnaturally re- 
monstrated that such an attractive "plot of ministry " 
was framed in Ames's study, and that as a matter of 
sober fact the Church of England allowed "no such call- 
ing as is chiefly grounded upon the people's choice; but 
only that which is grounded upon the bishop's ordina- 
tion." 3 "But what the Church of England alloweth," 
Ames retorted, "maketh nothing to the question/' If 
by any stretch of imagination it could be conceived that 
a minister might attribute his real calling to the congre- 

1. Jacob, Reasons taken out of Gods Word> p. 50. 

2. Bradshaw, op. cit. y p. 88. 

3. Robinson, "A Manvmission to a Manvdiction," Mass. Hist. Soc. y Co//., 
Series 4, I, 170, 173. 


gation, then the Church of England had not waxed 
utterly corrupt. " For a minister to lay the chief ground 
of his calling upon the peoples choice, so that he haue 
withall those formallities required, I knowe no law in 
England that doeth forbid or disallow it." x Suppose, 
Ames asked, a man should procure a license from a 
bishop and a patron, yet should assume his charge pro- 
fessedly upon the people's choice; suppose, indeed, that 
in order to get his license he had to perform some things 
which he knew were not lawful, yet suppose that all the 
while he continued to hold his faith "in the maine things 
of the ghospell"; might not, under these circumstances, 
"some faults of his entrance bee circumstantiall per- 
sonal actions by which his calling is not abolished?" 2 
The people would not receive him as "a branch of the 
prelacie . . . but on other & better groundes"; 3 con- 
scious of these nice distinctions, they would communi- 
cate with him without sharing in the corrupt aspect of 
his office. Thus it followed, as the night the day, that 
the ministers of England, though ordained by the prel- 
ates, were none the less ministers of Christ in the full 
Congregational sense if they chose to consider them- 
selves so. "We utterly deny," Ames proclaimed, "that 
tifee calling of our ministers doth essentially depend upon 
the bishops calling/' 4 For that reason he could main- 
tain consistently that "though the prelacie were 
plucked vp by the rootes, yet the parochial ministerie 
might stand still, in all the substantiall parts of it." 5 

1. Ames, op. a'/., p. 10. 

2. Ames, A Manvdiction, sig. Qi verso, Q2 recto. 3. Ibid. y sig. Q2 recto. 

4. A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies (1633), pt. n, p. 207. 

5. A Manvdiction, sig. Q3 recto. 


For the time being, however, the prelacy was not 
plucked up, and at first sight it might seem impossible 
to declare that any system in which they existed was in 
reality a Congregational one. But Ames and Bradshaw 
were quite prepared to dispose of that objection. The 
prelacy was not at all an integral part of the real English 
church system. It was the result of an unfortunate 
combination of two offices, and it needed only to be re- 
solved into separate incarnations for the whole problem 
to disappear. In a political respect the prelates were 
"generall visitors and overseers of Churches," ap- 
pointed by the magistrate; they were "commissioners 
under the King to see that the Pastors doe their du- 
ties/* J and such officers were entirely legitimate. But 
it so chanced that the men who were given this civil 
jurisdiction were at the same time ministers; originally 
bishops had been simple pastors upon whom the King 
had called to serve as his "commissioners"; they had 
used the power thus wrongfully acquired to usurp au- 
thority over other churches and to perpetuate the 
hierarchy. "In substance," nevertheless, they re- 
mained ministers of particular churches. It was now 
simply necessary for them to surrender their civil power 
to the proper civil authorities and they would all, 
bishops and archbishops, revert to a parity with all other 
ministers. "It is possible for them notwithstanding to 
be members in theire estate, of a true visible Church, 
and be bound ... to one particular congregation, for 
the speciall ministry and government thereof." 2 They 

1. Bradshaw, op. cit. y pp. 77, 49. 

2. Ames, A Second Manvdiction, p. 22. 


were pastoral stars which had wandered from their 
orbits, and they only needed to be restored to their 
pristine courses for order to reign once more in the 
ecclesiastical universe. Ames was sure that the largest 
part of the "faithfull congregations of England " would 
willingly be rid of the bishops, 1 thus attesting that they 
were stirred by obscure recollections of their pristine 
Congregationalism, that they were not "spirituall parts 
of a diocesan spiritual church . . . though civilly com- 
bined into a diocesan government/' 2 They were, once 
again, true churches in substance and were not to be 
separated from. 

Puritan Congregationalists put themselves through 
the labyrinthine process of this reasoning in the fond 
hope that even while demonstrating their loyalty to the 
scriptural discipline, they might salvage their allegiance 
to the principle of compulsory uniformity, that they 
would, in fact, conclusively prove the discipline and the 
principle to be indissolubly knit together. Thanks to 
their deft strategems they were always prepared to pro- 
test that they were not Separatists, even at the very 
moments when they were erecting independent churches 
in England or gathering them Qn foreign shores. They 
were trying to show that men who wished simply to 
realize potentialities already inherent in the Church were 
far different from men who wished to destroy it and be- 
gin anew. Those who never questioned that they should 
be coerced into conformity, even when a temporarily 
misguided monarch was coercing them in the wrong 

I . Ibid. , p. 90. 
1. Ibid. y p. 90. 


direction, might reasonably be considered loyal English- 
men. They subjected themselves to their governors 
"to doe to vs whatsoeuer they please/' and if they re- 
fused subscription to some ceremonies there was 
"neither contempt nor scandall" in their refusal. 1 They 
denied that any ecclesiastical authority had a right to 
expel ministers from particular churches; but just so 
soon as the King himself authorized the expulsion, 
though it remained intrinsically an unjust act, still, as it 
was the act of a magistrate, they did not rebel. They 
were, indeed, obliged to withhold their subscription, 
but they willingly undertook to suffer consequences. 
Though they refused, they were therein "neither 
Schismaticks, Seditious persons, enemyes to the Kings 
Supremacie, nor any way undutiful to King or State/' 2 
The peculiar twist of their philosophy enabled them to 
look upon these depravations with equanimity, even 
while they continued to declare that the act had not 
affected the essential character of the true churches. 
An English congregation might rest assured that though 
a magistrate took away their minister, "unjustly, & 
against the will of the Church . . . yet doth not the 
Church in that regard cease to be a church/' God 
commands the church in such a case to obey. If the 
magistrate had "matter against us (whither just or un- 
just it skilleth not)/' and forbade us to continue in our 
pastoral offices, "I see not by what warrant in Gods 
word we should thinke ourselves bound notwithstand- 

1. Parker, A Scholasticall Discourse Against Symbolizing with Antichrist 
(1607), pt. n, p. 33- 

2. Jacob, A Christian and Modest offer, p. 3. 


ing to exercise our ministry still/' Nor had the church, 
however much she loved her pastor, any right 

to deprive her selfe of the protection of the Magistrate, by leaving 
her publick standing, to follow her ministery in private and the dark; 
refusing the benefit of all other publick ministerie, which with the 
leave and liking of the Magistrate, he may enjoy. 1 

Although the churches of England might suffer by the 
rough dealing of the monarch, yet like the true churches 
they were, they suffered in silence and humility, know- 
ing that unless he led them back into Popery he could 
not undermine their essential constitution, and that 
however inconsiderate or even tyrannical he might 
seem to be, he was still the ordinance of God. 

So, after this long excursion into dialectics, the Non- 
separating Congregationalists could safely reiterate the 
conventional political philosophy as their profound 
conviction. The magistrate's power to them was, of 
course, "the greatest of humane powers/' "the institu- 
tion of God. " 2 Subjects owed the traditional obedience 
to their rulers, should submit to them and pray for them 
even when they were tyrannical or heathen. 3 Though a 
civil office was abused, " yet that doeth not make all sub- 
jection to it vnlawfull," 4 because "contempt of au- 
thority, and the offence thereby given to others, is by 
itselfe a sinne against the Law of God." 5 An excom- 
municated monarch retained all his civil powers unim- 
paired. 6 And since the churches of England were, after 

I. Bradshaw, The Unreasonableness of the separation , pp. 90-91. 

1. Ames, Conscience, bk. v, p. 164. 3. Ibid., bk. v, p. 166. 

4. Ames, A Manvdiction, sig. Qj recto. 

5. Ames, Conscience, bk. I, p. 167. 

6. Bradshaw, English Puritanisme, p. 24. 


all, true churches, they were "such as the Princes of the 
earth are bound by God's Laws to maintaine and pro- 
tect by their autority." x Bradshaw explicitly asserted 
that the supremacy granted by statute to Queen Eliza- 
beth was "due in full and ample manner (without any 
limitation or qualification) to the King." 2 Whatever he 
perceived in the churches contrary to the Word of God, 
he, upon his own initiative, ought "to procure and force 
the redress thereof, yea, though it be without the con- 
sent and against the will of the Ecclesiastical Governers 
themselves/' 3 The forcible suppression of heresy was 
his most sacred duty: 

If therefore Heretikes be manifestly knowne and publikely hurt- 
full, they are to be restrained of the Magistrate by publike power. 
And if they be manifestly blasphemous, and pertenacious, and stub- 
borne in those blasphemies, may suffer capitall punishment. 4 

Finally, the protagonists of the polity rehearsed the 
usual Puritan arguments that they meant no threat to 
society. Congregationalism, they pleaded, would not 
level the classes, or obstruct the monarchy, "which they 
acknowledge to be the best kind of civill Government 
for this Kingdome." 5 Jacob even promised that the 
Church rule for which he was soliciting would prove 
more compatible with the King's imperial sceptre than 
that of the prelates, 6 and he predicted it would settle 
"more vnitie and peace in truth a hundred times/' 

1. Bradshaw, The Unreasonableness of the separation, p. 31. 

2. Bradshaw, "A protestation of the king's supremacie" (1605), Several 
treatises (1660), p. 87. 

3. /J/V.,p. 88. 

4. Ames, Conscience, bk. iv, p. 12. 

5. English Puntanisme, p. 10. 

6. Jacob, To the right High and mightte Prince, lames, p. 8. 


If only "our Magistrates would shew vs their favor and 
aide (which our adversaries enioy) this that I say would 
quickly & universally bee evident." l 

The rub, the constantly more galling rub, was that 
the adversaries did enjoy " favor and aide." The King 
failed utterly to see the point of Congregationalism's 
ingenious schemes. When Jacob's petition of 1610 in- 
formed James that in his royal person was vested the 
power of overseeing churches, James commented on the 
margin, "Quhy, then, do ye not obey the Kinges lawes 
that are already maide, quhome ye grawnte to be your 
supreme magistrate?" 2 The elaborate casuistry of 
Non-separation convinced no one; though Robinson 
yielded some ground to Ames's persuasion, he still recog- 
nized that much of the latter's Manvdiction was an 
" exercise of wit." 3 A subtle distinction between the 
Church's "substance" and " accidents" had little 
meaning to the churchmen: "it cannot bee shewed," 
pronounced Burgess, "because it is a non ens y a fiction. 
. . . The New-nothing of all the faithful Congregations 
collectiuely considered, is but a meere mistie and inex- 
plicable speech made for a covert." 4 The gulf between 
the prelates and the Puritans could not be bridged by 
split hairs; the opposition was too irreconcilable, such a 
one "as there is betwixt the light which commeth down 
from heaven, & that thick mist which ariseth from the 

1. Jacob, An Attestation of many Learned \ Godly and famous Divines (1613), 
p. 177. 

2. Waddington, Congregational History, n, 175. 

3. "A Manvmission to a Manvdiction," Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, I, 

4. An answer rejoined, Preface, p. 61. 


lowest pit/' x Accumulated suffering no more convinced 
this brand of dissenters than it did the others that there 
might be a flaw in their program: "the more they haue 
sustayned for it, the more (by the mercy of God) they 
see the glorious evidence of it." 2 In spite of their ex- 
travagant adherence to the royal supremacy, the Con- 
gregationalists were preaching that the King was 
limited by the Word of God, by that which contained 
"all parts of the true Religion, both for Substance and 
Ceremony, and a perfect direction in all Ecclesiastical 
matters whatsoever." 3 But the King and the Church 
had already decided otherwise, and they were growing 
only more determined that Puritans should buckle 
under. All reformers were being forced to make in- 
creasingly clear choices between God and man. Con- 
gregationalists and Presbyterians could preach inter- 
minably that no reform should be sought but at the 
hands of the magistrate, yet when the magistrate ob- 
viously failed them, the best instructions they could 
give their flocks were that "every man is to look to 
himself, that he communicate not with the evils of the 
times, induring what it shall please the State to in- 
flict." 4 But even seventeenth century Puritans could 
not continue indefinitely to labor and suffer in vain. 
They kept hovering closer to the brink of rebellion, and 
Jacob ominously warned that if the prelates persisted 
in imposing the tenets of Arminianism, "& shall vrge 
them so hotely as they begin; both the Ministers & 

1. Ames, Preface to The Diocesans 'Trial, sig. Aj verso. 

2. Jacob, A Christian and Modest offer, p. 8. 

3. Bradshaw, "A protestation of the king's supremacy," p. 90. 

4. Ibid.,?. 94. 


many of the people wilbe forced to leaue their ordinary 
standing in these Churches/* * 

As the Puritan predicament became more difficult 
and more hopeless, the Separatists seemed to see events 
proving their course wiser in the long run. They ener- 
getically renewed their cry that Separation had grown 
out of Puritan teaching, and they found in the crazy 
structure of Puritan Congregationalism an excellent 
case in point. Canne, in his able Necessity of Separation, 
quoted Bradshaw and Ames at length, and showed with 
smashing effectiveness that their polity unmistakably 
pointed to an ultimate schism. "I am sorry they laid 
such a snare, whereby to undo themselves/' 2 Burgess 
told Ames, " Your Master Bradshawes very Arguments 
against conformitie are pretended by the Separatists, as 
grounds for their separation"; they themselves prove 
" their pedigree from you: and no man can deny it, who 
hath any forehead left." 3 Cotton tells us that in the 
reign of Charles Separatists were more favored by the 
authorities than Puritans, 4 and Roger Williams explains 
that we are not to marvel thereat: "It is a principle in 
nature to preferre a professed enemy, before a pretended 
friend/' The bishops knew that the Separatists were 
enemies, and also that they were comparatively harm- 

whereas the Puritans profest subjection, and have submitted to the 
Bishops. . . . And yet (as the Bishops have well knowne) with no 

1. Jacob, op. r//., p. 39. 

2. Canne, A Necessity of Separation y p. 67; cf. pp. 131, 242. 

3. John Burgess, An answer rejoined, p. 236. 

4 . Cotton, "Letter to Roger Williams" (1643), Publications of the Narra- 
gansett Club y I, 309. 


greater affection, then the Israelites bare their Egyption cruel Task- 
masters. 1 

Along with all other Puritans the Congregationalists 
had identified themselves with the Parliamentary cause. 
With the dissolution of 1629 their last hope was gone, 
and they faced a situation which for them was even 
more intolerable than for other Puritans. Presbyterians 
might be able to afford to wait, but every moment was 
forcing the Congregationalists into Separation. "Was 
it not/' remembered Thomas Shepard of Cambridge in 

was it not a time when humane Worship and inventions were growne 
to such an intolerable height, that the consciences of Gods saints and 
servants . . . could no longer bear them? was not the power of the 
tyrannicall Prelates so great, that like a strong Current carryed all 
down streame before it? ... Did not the hearts of men generally 
faile them? 2 

Must we have stayed in England, he asked, and studied 
"some distinctions to salve our Consciences in comply- 
ing with so manifold corruptions of Gods worship ?" 
Adroit as the Congregational Non-separating subter- 
fuge had been, it could not be maintained for ever. And 
if it could not, what was the alternative? " Should wee 
forsake the publique Assemblies, and joyne together in 
private separated churches?" No, that would have 
been suicide: "how unsufferable it would then have 
been, the great offence that now is taken at it, is a full 
evidence/' 3 

1. Roger Williams, "Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed" (1644), Publica- 
tions of the Narragansett Club, I, 382. 

2. Thomas Shepard and John Allin, A Defence of the Answer (1648), p. 3. 

3. Ibid., p. 4. 


It was, then, at this opportune hour, when all the 
tried intents had seemed to fail, that still another solu- 
tion loomed over the troubled horizon. If a body of 
Puritans could be carried into a virgin wilderness, and 
be carried legally, so that the government they set up 
there might claim legitimate descent from the Crown, 
then the civil strife of the spiritual and political loyalties 
could be reconciled. In a new state erected in accord- 
ance with Puritan ideals, the refractory magistrate 
could be brought into line. At the same time, because 
those who emigrated would come from that section of 
Puritanism which had never separated, they could call 
any church they established part of the Church of Eng- 
land, and therefore, by grace of magistrates of their 
own creating, could enforce complete obedience to it. 
They could, in other words, figuratively but effectively 
transport both the English State and Church to Massa- 
chusetts and there reform them at will. Massachusetts 
would be a piece of England such as all England ought 
to be. Could God have expected us, Shepard once more 
queried, to remain helpless in England, futilely protest- 
ing and only finding a "way to have filled the Prisons 
. . . when a wide doore was set open of liberty other- 
wise ?" l Through a remarkable concatenation of his- 
torical events, at that very moment a door of liberty 

i. Ibid., p. 4. The reasoning behind the great migration, which we have to 
reconstruct from such stray passages as we can cull from later works, can be 
supplemented by the thinking of the Pilgrim migration some ten years 
earlier. As we have seen, the Separatist problem, from the Separatist stand- 
point, was practically the same as the Puritan: it was an attempt to hitch the 
divine discipline and the civil maintenance of orthodoxy to the same cart. 
The removal to Holland did not solve the question, and Robinson's congre- 
gation undertook the voyage to America to work out a more perfect answer. 


was indeed thrown open to those who were able to walk 
through it, and by the unwitting hand, ironically 
enough, of no less a person than King Charles himself. 

Before they left, Robinson made them a speech, in which the central problem 

of seventeenth century dissent appears explicitly: 

"Whereas you are to become a body politik, using amongst your 
selues ciuill government ... let your wisdome and godlinesse appeare . . . 
in yeelding vnto them [magistrates] all due honour and obedience in their 
lawfull administrations; not beholding in them the ordinarinesse of their 
person, but God's ordinance for your good; nor being like vnto the foolish 
multitude, who more honour the gay coate, then either the virtuous mind 
of the man, or the glorious ordinance of God. 

" But you know better things, and the image of the Lords power and 
authoritie which the Magistrate beareth, is honorable, in how meane per- 
sons soeuer. And this dutie you both may the more willingly, and ought 
the more-conscionably to performe, because you are at least for the pres- 
ent to haue onely them for your ordinary gouernours, which your selues 
shall make choice of for that worke." Mourt's Relation, 1622 (ed. Henry 
Martyn Dexter, 1865), p. xlvi. 

The whole key to the Puritan and Separatist migrations is imbedded 
in this passage. In order that they might continue to behold in magis- 
trates the ordinance of God, they had to escape from those who refused to 
live up to the part and to choose for themselves some that would. And 
above all the principle that the magistrate was the ordinance of God had 
to be preserved. 



THE origins of the Massachusetts Bay Company are 
to be sought, as all histories assure us, in the Dor- 
chester Adventurers, an organization founded in the 
year 1623, chiefly through the labors of John White, 
rector of Trinity Church at Dorchester in Wessex. The 
avowed purpose of this association was the maintenance 
of a permanent base for the fishing industry along the 
coast of New England. By 1627 the enterprise had prac- 
tically failed and would altogether have collapsed had 
not, so the story goes, the patriarch of Dorchester per- 
suaded Roger Conant and a few trusting souls to carry 
on the plantation at Cape Anne until he and those ad- 
venturers who "still continued their desire to set for- 
wards the Plantation of a Colony there'' T could rout out 
reinforcements. The West Country having contributed 
lavishly and lost, White sought further support in the 
one place where investors abounded; conferring, as he 
puts it, "casually with some Gentlemen of London^' 2 he 
aroused so much interest in the scheme that "it grew to 
be more vulgar," and a number of merchants appeared 
ready to take a chance on it. 3 By the influence of these 
Londoners and the compliance of certain prominent (and 

1. John White, The Planters Plea (1630), p. 75. 

2. Ibid. 3. Ibid.) pp. 75-76. 


Puritanical) gentlemen, who lent "the names of honest 
and religious men" to the affair/ a patent was secured 
from the Council of New England transforming the old 
Dorchester Company into "the Governor and Deputy 
of the New England Company for a Plantation in Mat- 
tachusetts Bay." 2 John Endecott was sent by this or- 
ganization to take over the plantation which Conant had 
been nursing along. Endecott returned optimistic re- 
ports, which were the cause of "more Aduenturers joyn- 
ing with the first Vndertakers" 3 wherefore he learned in 
a letter of the next February that the Company was 
"much inlarged sence yor departure out of England." 4 
The affair was now, White says, being agitated "in 
sundry parts of the Kingdome" and not only other 
Londoners became interested, but a number of wealthy 
men from the Eastern counties. 5 Some of these had come 
in before 6 the New England Company was itself trans- 
formed into the Massachusetts Bay Company by a royal 
charter issued on March 4; others invested afterwards, 
until by the summer of 1629 the London and East Coast 
additions entirely outvoted the few remaining Western 

It is impossible to say with certainty that before the 
month of July, when Governor Craddock made his 
motion for transporting the charter, any recruits to the 

1. "Records of the Council for New England " (ed. Charles Deane), Pro- 
ceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, April, 1867, p. 76. 

2. Records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay (ed. W. B. 
ShurtlefT), I, 397 (mentioned hereafter as Massachusetts Records}. 

3. The Planters Plea, p. 76. 

4. Massachusetts Records , I, 383. 

5. 'The Planters Plea, p. 77. 

6. Massachusetts Records, I, 28. 


Company deliberately intended to use it as a bridge to 
America, but it seems probable the Easterners expected 
great things of it. Thomas Dudley, in his letter of 1631, 
wrote that " about the year 1627" a number of friends in 
Lincolnshire "fell into discourse about New England, 
and the planting of the Gospel there "; after communi- 
cating, he declared, with other friends in London and the 
West, "we" procured a patent in 1629 and sent out 
Endecott. 1 Obviously Dudley's memory was playing 
him false in this statement, for Endecott had been sent 
out before the East Anglia element had joined; but the 
fact that he took unto his own faction the credit for hav- 
ing conceived of "the planting of the Gospel" in New 
England indicates that early in the Easterners' associa- 
tion they had become ready to direct the Company 
toward something more than a purely commercial end. 
At any rate it was certainly by the timely support of the 
newcomers, Easterners like Winthrop, Dudley, Pyn- 
chon, Johnson, and one or two Londoners, Saltonstall 
t and Increase Nowell, that Craddock's motion was car- 
ried and the great migration precipitated. 

Thus, though there are a host of baffling mysteries in 
the triple transformation of the Dorchester Adventur- 
ers, one fact at least seems clear: when John White 
sought capital in London and the East, he got more than 
he bargained for. White was a Puritan of the Presbyter- 
ian variety, and his original supporters had been of the 
same stripe. 2 A subsidiary incentive to their underwrit- 
ing the venture had undoubtedly been a desire to have 

1. Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts^ p. 309. 

2. Frances Rosc-Troup, John White ^ p. 103. 


spel preached in America^ and White had specifi- 
cally argued that a plantation would offer, among other 
things, employment for one or two Puritan ministers. 
But it is altogether improbable that he ever dreamed of 
founding a great Puritan refuge; in 1635 he himself de- 
posed that the purpose of the Dorchester Adventurers 
had been simply to fish and to trade with the Indians. 1 
Even if he had entertained notions of a Biblical com- 
monwealth, since he was a Presbyterian and remained 
conspicuously so to the end of his life, the last thing he 
would ever have desired to behold in New England, next 
to an episcopal hierarchy, was a Congregational state. 
Although he kept up his connection with the enterprise, 
it is evident that after the reins had been seized by the 
bumptious Easterners the Company's ecclesiastical 
complexion was radically transformed. Thereafter the 
ministers whom it attracted were, almost to a man, 
either confirmed Congregationalists or on the highroad 
to becoming so. In fact, I think it may safely be held 
that the New England divines constituted a sort of 
second generation to the Ames-Bradshaw group, that 
they lisped their elementary notions of church polity at 
the feet of those masters, and that they went to Massa- 
chusetts fully prepared to realize there the teachings of 
Non-separating Congregationalism. 

This thesis, which has hitherto received no recogni- 
tion from the historians of New England, is more than 
confirmed by certain events in Holland in the years 1628 
to 1 635. Several of the important members of the group, 
unwilling to accept exile in the wilderness except as a 

i. Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc. y XLIII, 494. 


last resource, attempted at first to find a refuge in the 
Low Countries, in the hope that they could remain close 
at hand until circumstances in England should become 
more favorable. Burroughs, Nye, Goodwin, and the 
others of the famous five Independent members of the 
later Westminster Assembly did succeed in eking out 
their existence in Holland until the Long Parliament 
met; but the other men failed, and only then turned in 
despair to New England. The reasons for their failure 
have never been made clear, yet it is essential that they 
be understood before the true history of New England 
can be known. 

In the British Museum exists a volume of manuscript 
letters received during these years by the British ambas- 
sador at The Hague, Sir William Boswell. From these 
crabbed pages emerges the story of a strange episode in 
the history of English diplomacy. Boswell assumed his 
duties in 1628, and apparently a goodly portion of his 
instructions from Whitehall dealt with the task of mak- 
ing Holland a less hospitable refuge for fleeing Separa- 
tists and Puritans. Laud's endeavors to secure unity at 
home were handicapped if every Puritan could find a 
convenient refuge just across the Channel. Boswell put 
all the pressure he could upon the Estates, and em- 
ployed numerous spies to keep him informed of what 
every exile in every locality was up to. It is their letters 
that now repose in the Museum. But of course Boswell 
found it difficult, not to say impossible, to make the 
Dutch refuse a welcome to English divines who came to 
them dedicated to precisely the same Presbyterianism 
for which they themselves had fought and bled. How- 


ever, Boswell could do the next best thing: he could stir 
up the Dutch against those Englishmen who did not 
agree with them. And in this task he at once received 
the enthusiastic aid of English Presbyterian exiles, who 
were only too anxious to demonstrate their loyalty and 
to show that they sympathized in principle with this 
official attempt to maintain uniformity. Religion, no 
less than politics, makes strange bedfellows. Thus we 
are confronted with the amusing spectacle of the agent 
of Laud working hand in glove with a Puritan minister 
like Paget, whom Laud and his party had driven from 
England to the embraces of a Dutch classis. The objects 
of this unnatural alliance could be only the Separatists 
or else those unfortunate Puritans who at home could 
not conform to the prelacy nor in Holland comport with 
the presbyters. As we have already seen, the Dutch 
Synod pronounced against the opinions of Jacob, Brad- 
shaw, and Ames, and it was quite prepared, with a little 
prodding from its English members, to make life un- 
comfortable for the younger disciples of Congregation- 

Of this younger group the most prominent on the 
English stage was undoubtedly Thomas Hooker. He 
was a student of one of Ames's masters, Alexander 
Richardson, 1 and by 1626 was a recognized Puritan 
leader in the county of Essex. Stephen Collins, vicar of 
Braintree and confidant of Laud, affirmed that he had 
seen the people of the shire idolize many ministers, but 
that Hooker surpassed them all both for abilities as a 
preacher and for the number of his followers; even if he 

i. Cotton Mather, Magnalia, I, 336. 


were silenced, "his genius will still haunte all the pulpits 
in ye country, where any of his scholars may be admitted 
to preach/' J When the authorities began to deal with 
him, his case excited more " noise " in the vicinity than 
"the great question of tonnage and Poundage." 2 At 
that rate Hooker knew what to expect if he should 
appear before the High Commission, and he chose the 
better part of valor by fleeing to Holland, where he was 
entertained as a possible colleague for John Paget by the 
elders of the English church at Amsterdam. Paget, who 
had already come to blows with Ames, Bradshaw, and 
Jacob, quickly recognized in Hooker another of the 
same stripe. He forced the candidate to submit to cross- 
examination, secured from him a complete confession of 
his Congregational creed, and carried the matter to the 
Classis, "who made it an Act that a man holding those 
opinions could not be chosen pastor within the power of 
the Classis & that so the Elders should desist." 3 Hooker 
finally was forced to move on to Delft, where he suc- 
ceeded Hugh Peter as assistant to Dr. Ames's friend 

By word and action Hooker declared himself in this 
contingency. To several of Paget's questions he simply 
replied, "In all of them I concurre with the iudgment of 
Doctor Ames . . . his Cases of Conscience . . . of Mr. 
Parker the 3 booke of Ecclesiasticall Policie ... of Mr. 
Baynes his Diocesans Tryall," and, he added ironically 
enough, "Wherein how farre they differ from you I 

1. Cal St. Pap., Dom., 1628-29, vol. CXLIII, No. 113. 

2. Ibid., vol. CXLIV, No. 36; cf. vol. CLI, No. 45. 

3. Additional Manuscripts 6394 (Boswell Papers, vol. i), fol. 146, in the Brit- 
ish Museum. 


doubt not but yow fully knowe." l Paget indeed knew. 
To the question of whether children of parents not in the 
Church should be baptized Hooker gave an unequivocal 
no, though he tried to be politic by adding that he was 
willing, nevertheless, to leave the Dutch churches to their 
own practice. His dictum on classes and synods was 
more than enough to justify the hostility of the authori- 
ties; he roundly declared that " particular Congrega- 
tions had power from Christ to call a Minister, and so 
did by that their power choose and call their Ministers, 
fully & compleatly before there was a Classis." This 
power he said was derived "from the direct ordinance 
and appoyntment of Christ which power they may not 
give away, being a legacy left them by the Lord Jesus, as 
Doctor Ames disputes and determines in his 4th booke 
of Cases of Conscience page 165." Once again he tried to 
be as politic as his conscience would permit, and granted 
that a congregation might consult a classis if they so 
wished, but that " they may lawfully and without sinne 
choose, without or against the Approbation of the Clas- 
sis, if they sawe good reason/' 2 Furthermore, Hooker 
proved that he did not intend these to be idle words, for 
when the Classis agreed with Paget that the elders should 
turn away a man of these opinions Hooker "taught 
them . . . that they might go on," and the Classis had 
to make a hasty appeal to the Synod to keep the Am- 
sterdam elders from acting upon Hooker's heretical 
doctrine. 3 

1 . Ibid. , fol. 69-70. 

2. Ibid.) fol. 69-70. 

3. Cal. St. Pap., Dom. y 1633-34, vol. ccxxxvn, No. 48; Hanbury, Historical 
Memorials, I, 532. 


Like all the other Non-separating Congregationalists, 
Hooker betrayed a disposition toward friendly relations 
with his fellow Congregationalists, the Separatists, even 
while disclaiming Separation himself. When Paget 
called him to account on this score Hooker once more 
revealed his allegiance to the Congregational idea by 
replying that while Separation was a sin, it was not un- 
lawful to receive into a church a former Separatist who 
had not renounced his schism, "vnlesse wee will say 
that such a man (being in his Judgment & life otherwise 
altogether vnblameable) in Judicious Charitie is not a 
visible Christian/' But if the Separatist may "in the 
iudgment of reasonable Charitie ... be counted a mem- 
ber of Christ and so a saint by the same Charitie he may 
be counted fit to be a member of a Congregation/' T 
Here clearly spoke a confirmed Congregationalist, who 
was yet resolved that at all costs Congregationalism 
should not be also Separation, and by such statements 
Paget took Hooker's measure. He opposed him for the 
same reasons he had opposed "Mr. Parker, Dr. Ames, 
Mr. Forbes, Mr. Peters, etc." Hooker, he said, was one 
of those who professed to abhor schism but, from a Pres- 
byterian standpoint, were not so averse to schismatics as 
they might have been: 

Not Mr. Hooker, while he maintained that such of the Brownists 
as persisted in the Schism or Separation from the Church of England 
might lawfully be received of us for Members of our Church: while 
he would not disallow such of our Church as went to hear the Brown- 
ists in their schismatical assembly: while he maintained that Private 
men might preach and expound the Scriptures at set times and 
places where the members of sundry families met together . . . 

i. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 67. 


while he maintained that Churches combined together in the Classis, 
might choose a Minister either without or against the consent of the 
Classis under which they stood. 1 

Hooker's pretended reverence for synods, as long as they 
were confined to mere consultation and giving of advice, 
was, Paget could readily perceive, "no more than that 
which Mr. Jacob and his company did give to Classes 
and Synods, 'for counsel and advice.' Yea, the Brown- 
ists themselves do give as much." 2 

Hooker, however, remained unshaken by such criti- 
cism, for, thanks to Ames, he was confident of his posi- 
tion. According to his reckoning his followers had given 
public satisfaction that they were not Separatists "by 
our Constant renouncing of their Course of the one side, 
and by our free and open profession of our intents, on 
the other side." 3 He identified himself further with 
Ames by serving as the latter's colleague at Rotterdam 
in 1633, and by writing the preface for his last work, A 
Fresh Suit against human ceremonies f wherein he spoke 
also of Bradshaw as one "whome we are not ashamed to 
owne." 5 He seems to have been familiar with Jacob's 
writings, for he jotted down one of Jacob's definitions of 
a church in a manuscript notebook and obviously para- 
phrased the passage in his own work of 1648, the famous 
Survey. 6 

1. Hanbury, op. cit., pp. 540-541. 

2. Ibid.) p. 542. 

3. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 67. 

4. Magnalia, i, 248; notation of Thomas Prince, flyleaf of the copy of A 
Fresh Suit in the Prince Collection, Boston Public Library. 

5. A Fresh Suit, sig. F2 recto. 

6. Notation of Josiah H. Benton, manuscript copy of Jacob's A Confession 
and Protestation^ Boston Public Library. 


If Hooker was a Congregationalist, his friend Hugh 
Peter was quite as much so. This worthy attributed his 
conversion to " the Love and Labours of Mr. Thomas 
Hooker" l and also sat under the ministry of John 
Davenport in London. For several years he was appar- 
ently assistant to Forbes at Delft, being ordained there 
by the latter "with Imposition of hands . . . who was 
before ordained in England/* 2 When Hooker came to 
Holland it was "upon Peters his commondations of 
him " that Paget's church sent Hooker his call, 3 whereby 
Peter incurred the wrath of the Presbyterian. After 
Hooker was repulsed, Peter moved to Rotterdam while 
Hooker succeeded him with Forbes. He took his new 
charge resolutely in hand and resorted to some rather 
heroic measures to make the church Congregational. He 
refused to accept his call by the vote of the vulgar; he 
permitted only those who swore to a specific covenant to 
have a voice in his election or to participate in the Com- 
munion service, wherefore about two-thirds of the for- 
mer congregation found themselves shut out. "What 
authority he hath to do these things/' one of the ex- 
cluded complained, "I know not/' 4 Hooker was for a 
time his colleague there, as well as the "Learned Ame- 
sius y " who, Peter says, "breathed his last breath into 
my bosome." Ames had come to Rotterdam "because 

1. A Dying Fathers Last Legacy to an One/y Child (1669), p. 99. 

2. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 172. 

3. Ibid., fol. 146. 

4. Quoted by Rose-Troup, John White, p. 223; one of Boswell's agents 
promptly secured a copy of this covenant, Add. MS. 6394, fol. 161. Cf. 
Burrage, Early English Dissenters, I, 300-303; Cal. St. Pap., Dom. 1633- 
34, vol. CCLII, No. 32; ibid., 1635, vol. CCLXXXVI, No. 94; Rathband, 
Brief e Narration, pp. 17-19; Baillie, Dissuasive, p. 75. 


of my Churches Independency/' and he " charged me 
often, even to his death, so to look to it, and if there 
were a way of publik worship in the world, that God 
would owne, it was that/* l 

The third of these figures, John Davenport, began his 
career as a conforming minister of St. Stephen's in Cole- 
man Street, London, where he achieved considerable 
reputation as a preacher. By 1628 he had reached the 
conviction that Anglican ceremonial was wrong, " which 
was not wraught at once, but by degrees, nor suddenly, 
but slowly, nor upon slight, but weighty considerations, 
nor without much labour, day and night. " 2 He did not 
become wholly converted, evidently, to Congregational- 
ism until he exchanged notes on church polity in 1632 
with John Lathrop, Jacob's successor at Southwark; 3 
he was confirmed in this resolution by a conference he 
held the next year with Cotton and Hooker just previ- 
ous to their departure for America, at which Goodwin 
and Nye, subsequently two great leaders of English In- 
dependency, were also present. 4 Soon thereafter Daven- 

1. Last Report of the English Wars (1646), p. 14. A thorough-going study of 
the life and thought of Hugh Peter during this period will be found in a 
forthcoming dissertation by Mr. Raymond P. Stearns at Harvard Uni- 
versity; at the present writing his evidence seems to more than substanti- 
ate my briefly indicated thesis. 

2. Davenport, An Apologeticall Reply, pp. 107-108; cf. John Waddington, 
Congregational History , u, 302. 

3. Burrage, op. /., n, 298. 

4. Cotton, The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared^ pp. 24-25; 
" Davenport-Paget Controversy" (ed. Worthington C. Ford), Mass. 
Hist. Soc., Proc., XLIII, 57; Magnalia, i, 264, 323; Waddington, Congrega- 
tional History, n, 288. Cf. Goffe's report to Boswell, June 7, 1633: "It is 
written unto me from England that Mr. Cotton of Boston hath con- 
vinced Mr. Damport & Mr. Nye two of the great preachers of the city 
that kneeling at the sacrament, etc is plaine Idolatry, & yt for that 


port fled to Holland. Paget's congregation, who must 
have been a somewhat recalcitrant group, immediately 
invited him to share the pulpit. Paget had his work to do 
over again. One of Boswell's agents, Stephen Goffe, 
reported that since "the miscarriage of Mr. Hooker" 
Davenport and his friends were trying to be diplomatic; 
they were making "Love to the Dutch ministers/' but 
Goffe easily perceived their intent: "So he may scape 
the examining & be taken on upon their words; & if so 
(if his owne friends speake truth) Mr. Hooker under 
another name wil beguile them/' J Both Goffe and 
Paget appealed to the classis, which was at once aroused, 
for Davenport was already preaching Congregational- 
ism. He announced that he would not baptize children 
whose parents were not within a church covenant by 
"externall profession/' 

The scale of the covenant belongs only to those In the covenant, 
nor can a man be judged to be in the covenant, without faith, nor 
to have faith unlesse he be called, nor to be called, unless he be 
taken off, from the world, and joyned to the congregation of the 
.faithful. 2 

"As he was Mr. Hookers convert/' commented Goffe, 
" so you may see him walke." 3 The presbyters could per- 
mit nothing of this sort, and demanded that Davenport 
"conforme to the orders and customs of the Dutch 

reason Mr. Damport hath absented himself every sacramental day wch is 
once a month since Christmas, & Mr. Cotton is going for New England." 
(Add. MS. 6394, fol. 144.) 

1. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 176. 

2. " Davenport-Paget Controversy," p. 52, Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc.^ vol. 
XLIII; Magnalia^ I, 324. 

3. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 170. 


Church. " r When he refused they ordered him silenced. 2 
By that time there came hastening over from Rotter- 
dam that doughty Congregationalist and Hookerite, 
Hugh Peter, with Forbes and Batchellor in tow, "who 
have (as they phraise it) strengthened him/' The 
strengthening seems to have taken the form of putting 
the issue between Congregationalism and Presbyterian- 
ism trenchantly before the more recent convert: "And 
they spake it in praise of Mr. Peters courage & zeale 
that he should offen use the speech to Mr. Davenport, 
Take heed, Mr. D. what you do, for you were as good 
yeald to the English Bps as to the Dutch Classis." 3 Thus 
reinforced, Davenport stuck to his Congregational guns. 
He retorted with a categorical denial of a classis' right to 
exercise the power of silencing a minister who had been 
called by a specific congregation. Coercive synods, he 
declared, had been " the cause of many mischiefs in the 
Church, for thereby the writings and decrees of men are 
made infallible and equall with the word of God, which 
is intolerable/' 4 He insisted that a church was entitled 
to choose whatever minister it pleased without the con- 
sent of a classis; 5 many of Paget's congregation agreed 
with him and seceded from the church in protest. 6 

A lengthy controversy ensued, in the course of which 
Davenport attested the sources of his belief by quoting 
Ames, Baynes,and Hooker to support his opinion against 

1. "Davenport-Paget Controversy," p. 54. 

2. Report of Sir William Boswell, April, 1634, ibid., pp. 45~4^. 

3. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 198. 

4. "Davenport-Paget Controversy," p. 51. 

5. Davenport, An Apologcticall Reply, p. 220. 

6. Cf. Burrage, op. '/., i, 306-309; n, 278-286. 


promiscuous baptism, 1 and Ames, Parker, Baynes, and 
Jacob for his stand against the classis. 2 He specifically 
declared that he was writing not only in his own de- 
fense, but in defense as well of Parker, Ames, Forbes, 
Hooker, Weld, and Peter. 3 Like all those worthies he 
was not a Separatist; he told Sir William Boswell that he 
was still "his Maiesties Loyall & faythfull subiect in 
simplicity and trueth," and that he witnessed "against 
haeresyes, and schysme and against all sectaryes, as 
Familists, Anabaptists & Brownists." 4 To assert "the 
lawfullness of admitting onely their infants to baptisme, 
who are members of a true church/' did not in the least, 
he said, argue "such separation from true churches (for 
defects and corruptions which are found in them) to be a 
bounden duety." s He defended both himself and 
Hooker 6 from the charge of schism by quoting their 
common master, William Ames, 7 and by invoking the 
casuistry of Non-separation. He had not left England 
"out of any Schysmaticall propension to forsake the 
Church assemblies of England, as if I thought there were 
v no true Churches of Christ in the land/' 8 However 
much the churches of England were defective, "yet to 
dischurch them wholly, & to separate from them, as no 
Churches of Christ, or to deny baptisme to the infants 
of their knowne members is not warranted by any rule 

1. "Davenport-Paget Controversy," p. 55; Davenport, An Apologeticall 

Reply, pp. us, 160- 

2. Ibid., pp. 224, 227, 235, 238-243. 

3. Ibid., sig. Ci verso. 

4. Barrage, op. cit., n, 283-284. 

5. An Apologetic all Reply, p. 281. 

6. Ibid. y pp. 256-248. 

7. 7/V/.,p. 281. 8. Ibid., p. 107. 


in Scripture." x Like Hooker and Peter, he also held that 
Separatists could be admitted to his church, 2 whereupon 
Paget felt perfectly justified in bracketing Davenport 
with Hooker as one whose professed enmity to schism 
was insincere. How, he asked, could Davenport be 
opposed to Brownism, 

while he gathered unto himself a great and solemn assembly apart, 
by preaching unto them at set times in a private house without 
allowance of the Church: while he approved the Act of our Elders in 
admitting him to preach as an Assistant without the consent of the 
Classis . . . while he maintained the power of every Particular 
Church to be chief in its own particular matters? 3 

These, according to Paget, were precisely "such opin- 
ions and practices'* as Ainsworth and Robinson held, 
and no minister who promulgated them could be safely 
called to "any of these Reformed Churches/' for the 
reformed churches of Holland were Presbyterian, and 
Davenport clearly was not that kind of Puritan. 4 

One other of the prominent New England leaders, John 
Cotton, did not go to Holland, but before he left Eng- 
land he betrayed his adherence to the party of Ames 
almost as completely as did those upon whom Boswell's 
spies made their reports. He had been an intimate friend 
of Baynes, through whom he met his first wife. 5 He says, 
of course, that he descried the polity in the Bible, but 
admits also: 

Besides, I had then learned of Mr. Parker, and Mr. Baynes (and 
soon after of Dr. Ames), that the Ministers of Christ, and the Keyes 

1. Ibid., pp. 281-282. 

2. Ibid., p. 60; Hanbury, Historical Memorials, I, 532. 

3. /^W.,p. 541. 4- /#</., pp. 541, 545. 5- 


of the Government of his Church are given to each particular Con- 
gregationall Church respectively: And therefore neither Ministers 
nor Congregations subject to the Ecclesiasticall jurisdiction of 
Cathedrall Churches, no, nor of Classical Assemblies neither, but by 
voluntary consociation. 

This teaching caused him, he continues, " to breath after 
greater liberty and purity not onely of Gods Worship, 
but of Church estate"; therefore, thoroughly in keeping 
with the reasoning we have already noted as characteris- 
tic of the school, he gathered " some scores of godly per- 
sons in Boston in Lincoln-shire" and they "entered into 
a Covenant with the Lord, and one with another, to 
follow after the Lord in the purity of his Worship." 
This, he admits, was a defective arrangement, "yet it 
was more than the Old Non-conformity." r This state- 
ment attests that prior to his ever setting foot in New 
England he was aware of the divergence between the 
two wings of the Puritan party, and that he himself had 
deserted the old line Presbyterianism. Goffe apparently 
understood this fact better than subsequent historians, 
for in writing to Sir William Boswell of a certain Gene- 
van preacher who in Holland had defended the Church 
of England he declared, "And by that thesis he gott the 
ill will of all that tribe: Mr. Cotton of Boston sent him a 
lettre about it, blaming his medling, & Dr. Ames an- 
other." 2 Goffe knew well enough that Cotton and Ames 
were of the same "tribe." And it would seem that 
Thomas Hooker knew it as well, for when he decided to 
move to New England his first choice for a colleague 

1. The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared r , pt. I, p. 20. 

2. Add. MS. 6394, fol. 134. 


there was Cotton. 1 Cotton declined the honor, and 
Hooker took Samuel Stone instead; but all three of the 
ministers found passage on the same ship, where they 
demonstrated their full Congregationalism by refraining 
from baptizing the son born to Mrs. Cotton on the 
voyage, "i. because they had no settled congregation 
there; 2. because a minister hath no power to give the 
seals but in his own congregation.'' 2 

Concerning many of the first generation of New 
England divines we have but little positive evidence for 
their ecclesiastical affiliations at the time of their migra- 
tion. But a few stray facts reveal a sufficient number of 
connections on the part of some of the most important 
of them with leaders of the Non-separating school of 
Congregationalism to warrant our inferring that they 
were either members of the group or at least on cordial 
terms with it. Shepard, Norton, and Stone were disciples 
of Hooker, and any of the three was satisfactory enough 
to be accepted by him as his colleague after Cotton re- 
fused the offer. 3 Stone was a school-fellow and friend of 
Shepard; 4 Shepard thought so much of Hooker and 
Cotton that when they left England he "saw the Lord 
departing/' s For a time Shepard resided with Weld in 
Essex, and they both evidently attended Hooker's ser- 
mons. 6 Davenport cited Weld along with Ames, Hooker, 
and Peter as a man he was defending from Paget's 

1. Cotton Mather, Magnalia, I, 340, 434. 

2. John Winthrop, Journal (ed. J. K. Hosrner), i, 107. 

3. Magnalia, I, 434. 

4. Shepard, "Memoirs," Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts, pp. 506, 518. 

5. Ihid.,p. 529. 

6. Ibid., pp. 512, 514; Waddington, Congregational History, n, 297. 


attack. 1 John Eliot's connection with Hooker is well 
known, for he was an usher in Hooker's school at Little 
Baddow in i63o. 2 Nathaniel Rogers must be listed 
among the young men through whom Stephen Collins 
expected Hooker's genius to haunt the pulpits of Essex; 
Rogers also was in correspondence with Cotton in i63i. 3 
John Lathrop, Jacob's successor at Southwark, migrated 
to Massachusetts in 1634, though he presently settled at 
Scituate within Plymouth boundaries. 4 Richard Mather 
had become a Congregationalist by 1633, which, his 
biographer tells us, "came to pass by his much reading 
of the holy Scriptures, and his being very conversant in 
the Writings of Cartwright^ Parker , Baynes^ and Ames" \ 
his decision to remove two years later was strongly in- 
fluenced by a letter from Hooker. 5 Nathaniel Ward we 
know was in correspondence with Cotton at least by the 
end of 1 63 1. 6 Ezekiel Rogers, who brought a Yorkshire 
company to Massachusetts in 1638, was already con- 
vinced that the chief defect in the Church of England 
was " their receiving (nay, compelling) all to partake of 
the seals." 7 John Phillips of Wrentham, who arrived at 
the same time and served as minister at Dedham, was 
married to a sister of Ames, and had been by him en- 

1. Davenport, An Apologetic all Reply, sig. Ci verso. 

2. Magnaha, I, 335. 

3. Ibid., pp. 416, 420. Rogers was the son of a famous Puritan preacher, 
John Rogers of Dedham, whose treatise on justification was quoted by 
Hooker in his controversy with Paget (Add. MS. 6394, fol. 71). 

4. Winthrop, Journal, I, 134, 136. 

5. Life and Death of . . . Mr. Richard Mather, p. 136; Magnalia, I, 448-449; 
K. B. Murdock, Increase Mather, pp. 16-17. 

6. Alexander Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts, p. 113, n. 5. 

7. Winthrop, Journal, I, 282. 


couraged to adopt the Congregational way. 1 Nathaniel 
Eaton, first teacher at Harvard, was a student of Ames 
at Franeker. 2 Little enough at best is known of John 
Harvard, but among the books he bequeathed to the 
college library were five titles by Ames, as well as two by 
Baynes, and one by Bradshaw. 3 To all these men, and 
doubtless to many others who reached the colony after 
the foundations of its church way were laid, an assertion 
of Cotton's seems to apply: when the New England 
ministers crossed the ocean, he says, they fully intended 
to join the American churches, which plainly argued that 

we did not upon our coming hither, goe contrary to our former 
judgment, and fall into a liking of this way. For then we would 
never have taken so long and hazardous a voyage to joyn to 
Churches, whose way was contrary to our judgments all the while 
of our abode in England.* 

What Cotton declares of himself must evidently be pos- 
tulated of many others: "I knew their Religion before I 
came into New England . . . and I came with a purpose 
to joyn with their churches/' 5 

As a matter of fact, of only five ministers among all 
those who crossed in the first twenty years of the 

1. Ibid., ii, 83; Julius H. Tutde, Pub. Col. Soc. of Mass., xvn, 210-211. 

2. lbid.,\>. 210; F. B. Dexter, Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc., Series I, xvn, 344. 

3. Alfred C. Potter, Pub. Col. Soc. oj Mass., xxi, 190-230. 

4. 'The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. I, p. 20. 

5. Ibid., p. 25; Cotton was not speaking amiss, even though he wrote this 
some fourteen years after his arrival; at the time Winthrop had written to 
Sir Simonds D'Ewes (September 26, 1633) that the church estate in New 
England was "suche as the Lords holy & wise servants . . . doe approve 
of, & accordingly doe joyne wth us in the same Course. I meane espe- 
cially Mr. Cotton & Mr. Hooker, who lately arrived heere" (Pub. Co/. 
Soc. of Mass., vii, 70). 


colony's existence can it be declared they were out and 
out Presbyterians. The church that settled Dorchester, 
Massachusetts, was gathered under the supervision of 
John White, who preached at the ordination of the two 
ministers, Maverick and Wareham; I these men reflected 
White's position after their arrival by holding " that the 
invisible church may consist of a mixed people, godly, 
and openly ungodly/' 2 Maverick soon died, and Ware- 
ham evidently was converted, for by the time he moved 
to Connecticut he was an ardent follower of Thomas 
Hooker. Thomas Parker, the son of Robert Parker, 
came with his cousin James Noyes, and the two settled 
at Newbury; 3 although Parker had been a student of 
Ames, yet he followed rather in his father's later than 
earlier steps, and remained obstinately Presbyterian to 
the end of his days. The last of this sort was Peter 
Hobart, pastor of Hingham, of whom we shall have oc- 
casion to speak hereafter. 

Into the activities of the Company itself during the 
crowded months before the migration we are permitted 
only a few tantalizing glimpses, and these not extensive 
enough to justify a positive declaration of the ecclesias- 
tical sentiments entertained by the secular leaders. But 
most assuredly these men were busy at the time discuss- 
ing what form the churches of the New World should 
assume: "how many serious consultations with one an- 
other, and with faithfull Ministers, and other eminent 
servants of Christ ... is not unknowne to some." 4 At 

1. Roger Clap, "Memoirs," Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts y p. 347. 

2. Bradford, "Letter Book," Mass. Hist. Soc., 6V/., Series i, in, 74. 

3. Ma^nalia^ I, 480, 484. 

4. Shepard and Allin, A Defence of the Answer, p. 6. 


least some participants in these consultations must have 
cherished rather definite intentions, for on the day after 
one of them, Arthur Tyndal wrote Winthrop that upon 
second thought he had become willing " to liue under the 
Hierarchic of your church & civill gouernment, proposed 
& concluded among yourselues." x The best indication 
we have of what sort of ministers Winthrop and his 
friends were seeking for the " Hierarchic " of their 
church is afforded by a letter Johnson indited to the 
governor on December 17, 1629: 

Touching Mr. Hooker, we are not yet resolved what to doe, saue 
only to write to him, or go to him, to see whether hee entends to 
go or write, that wee may doe accordingly. Dr. Ames would haue 
the like respect, as Mr. Cotton well remembers us off. . . . Touching 
Mr. Peters your caution is good, but I hope wee shall give you con- 
tent, that his place will not be unsupplyed, nor his coming over 
offensive nor dangerous. 2 

The four ministers here mentioned were Congregational- 
ists, and that they should be grouped together is im- 
mensely significant, particularly when one remembers 
how many Presbyterian Puritans were available had 
Johnson been interested in them. However, as far as 
Hugh Peter is concerned, Johnson's letter is not the first 
sign of his connection with the Company. Probably 
through the influence of John White, whom he called 
"my dear firm Friend, 7 ' 3 Peter became one of the pat- 
entees of the New England Company in May, i628. 4 
He signed the corporation's instructions to Endecott in 

i. Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, n, 413. 

i. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vi, 31. 

3. Hugh Peter, A Dying Fathers Legacy (1660), p. 101. 

4. J. B. Felt, Annals of Salem, p. 508. 


that month/ and was present at least at two meetings In 
May of the next year, 2 He finally went to Massachu- 
setts, he says, because "many of my Acquaintance go- 
ing; for Xevs-England) had engaged me to come to them 
when they sent." 3 Peter's devotion to the Congrega- 
tional polity was well known at this time, and his affilia- 
tion with the Company may very possibly have been 
the entering wedge of the Congregationalists' control. 
Hooker remained in close contact with the Company 
from the time of Johnson's letter; his sister travelled 
with the great migration in 1630,* and a number of his 
Essex parishioners went over in 1632 to await his com- 
ing, being at once known as "Mr. Hooker's company." 5 
Cotton figured as official valedictorian by preaching the 
farewell sermon to the fleet at Hampton in 1630; 6 he 
himself says one of the reasons he ultimately decided to 
follow was that many from Boston in Lincolnshire had 
preceded him. 7 Davenport, like Peter, was a patentee 
in 16285 though his name did not appear in the list for 
politic reasons; * he was present at many meetings after 
the royal charter had been secured, including the one of 
August 29 when the decision to transport the patent was 
reached. 9 On November 25, 1629, in order that the ses- 

1. Thomas Hutcfiinson, History of Massachusetts Bay (1765), i, 9. 

2. Massachusetts Rsccr^s^ i, 39, 40. 

3. A Dying Fathers Legacy, p. 101. 

4. Dudley,, "Letter to Countess of Lincoln/* Young, Chronicles of Massa- 
chusetts,?. 314. 

5. Winthrop, Journal \ i, 90. 

6. Bradford, '"Letter Book/' Mass, Hist. Soc., Co//., Series !, in, 75. 

7. Young, op. cit., p. 440. 

8. Magnolia^ i, 325; Franklin B. Dexter 3 Papers of the New Haven Historical 
Society ,11,1.1%. 

9. Massachusetts Records, i, 37, 47, 54, 57, 61, 67. 


sions of the Company might be opened with prayer, two 
ministers were admitted to the freedom of the Company; 
one of these was Philip Nye, subsequently the great In- 
dependent leader; another name recommended at the 
time was "Mr. Nathaniel Ward, of Standon." l In these 
crucial hours the Company was evidently keeping an 
eye upon the young men who were in the same camp 
with Hooker, Peter, and Ames, for we find Humfrey 
writing on December 18, 1630, that lecturers and minis- 
ters were daily being "put by" and that "Mr. Weld of 
Essex is now upon the stage & expects his doome. I 
think he will be easilie for us." 2 

The supreme proof, however, of the Company's con- 
nection with Ames's ecclesiastical clique is its relations 
with that great man himself. On December 29, 1629, 
possibly in reply to the very letter which Johnson said 
he was sending to him at the suggestion of Cotton, Ames 
wrote to Winthrop, "with his associats for New Eng- 
land." He was then praying daily " for the good successe 
of the busines yow have undertaken," and he declared he 
so longed "to bee with yow" that he intended to follow 
" upon the news of your safe arrivall, with good hope of 
prosperitie." Evidently he had been asked for advice 
upon certain matters of which he was qualified to speak, 
since he added, 

Concerning the directions yow mention, I have nothing to write: 
as being ignorant of special difficulties: and supposing the genera! 

1. Ibid. , p. 63. 

2. Mass. Hist. Soc. y ColL y Series 4, vi, 1 1 ; on November 4, 1629, John Maid- 
stone wrote to Winthrop praising George Phillips; Winthrop must have 
approved the man, for he paid his passage (Mass, Hist. Soc^ Co//., Series 


care of safetic, libertie, unitie, with puritie, to bee in all your rnindes 
& desires. 1 

Such a guarded statement was the wise move of a wise 
man in a day when Puritan letters were subject to 
search, but "libertie, unitie, with puritie" could mean to 
Ames only one thing, free, uniform, and pure Congre- 
gationalism. There can hardly be any doubt in view of 
this letter that the faction which stampeded the Massa- 
chusetts Bay Company into becoming the Common- 
wealth of Massachusetts met his approval because it 
was hospitable to the ecclesiastical polity he had so con- 
spicuously championed. Ames never abandoned his in- 
tention of joining the colony. Humfrey wrote to both 
Johnson and Winthrop in December of the next year 
that Ames retained "his first affection to you & the 
worke," 2 and he sent to Winthrop a copy of Ames's De 
Conscientia among some books "that are lately come 
out." 3 So widely known was Ames's inclination that a 
friend in the Bermudas, hearing "there is a supposition 
that you intend to come for New England, and Mr. 
Peeters, as many reverent Divines are gone from Eng- 
land before you/' wrote to him attempting to divert his 
course to the southern plantation. 4 Ames died in 1633, 
and his family ultimately crossed over in 1637, bringing 
his books with the intention of making them "the first 
furniture" of the college library. 5 

5, i, 190; Massachusetts Records , i, 131). Phillips was already a radical 
Congregationalist (cf. infra, p. 134). 

1. Mass. Hist. Soc., Co//., Series 4, vi, 576. 

2. Ibid., pp. 11, 1 6. 3. 7^;W.,p. 4. 

4. George Lyman Kittredge, Pub. Col. Soc. of Mass. , xin, 61. 

5. Julius H. Tuttle, Pub. Col. Soc. of Mass., xiv, 63-66; Magnalia^ i, 236; 
Mass. Hist. Soc., y Co//., Series 4, i, 100. 


Hitherto the stumbling block to our interpretation of 
Massachusetts ecclesiastical origins has been the rooted 
conviction that the Bay towns contracted their church 
polity by a species of contagion from the Separatists of 
Plymouth. This theory has persisted in spite of the fact 
that it does not explain how the marked Anti-separa- 
tist current seen in the Company's official manifestoes of 
1630, The Humble Request and The Planters P/ea y got 
turned awry, and hostile critics have sniffed hypocrisy or 
even deliberate fraud. Robert C. Winthrop was sure 
that could a hiatus among his ancestor's papers be sup- 
plied, there would be discovered an explanation for the 
governor's religious conduct, which otherwise seemed to 
remain a blot on the 'scutcheon of the family consist- 
ency. 1 Commentators invariably have puzzled over 
what seems to have been a vast discrepancy between 
English profession and New England practice; the most 
recent to take up the cry is Mrs. Frances Rose-Troup, in 
a case of special pleading for John White, wherein she 
intimates that by accepting " Separatist" forms of wor- 
ship from Plymouth, John Endecott virtually betrayed 
his trust. 2 

The assumption behind all these perplexities is that 
Congregationalism and Separatism are synonymous 
terms. I believe, however, we have sufficiently demon- 
strated tftat there is reason to suppose the influential 
element among the emigrating Puritans could very 
easily have been Congregational and at the same time 
most emphatically not Separatist. Furthermore, we 

1. Arthur B. Ellis, History of the First Church in Boston, p. xxix. 

2. Rose-Troup, John White, pp. 145, 179, 180. 


must remember that when the Plymouth congregation 
left John Robinson, he had yielded to the arguments of 
Jacob and Ames and had abandoned " rigid Separation " 
for what has been termed a "Semi-separatist" position; 
also we know that Non-separating Congregationalists 
were always meeting their Separatist brethren on 
friendly terms, communicating with them freely as long 
as it remained understood they themselves were not 
thereby approving the act of Separation. With these 
antecedents in mind, we might be prepared to forecast 
that neither Plymouth nor Massachusetts would have to 
persuade the other to become Congregationalist, and 
that their relations would be rather a matter of putting 
their heads together over a common program they had 
approached from slightly different but important angles. 
In their parleyings the word of Plymouth would carry 
weight with the younger colony because the Plymouth 
church would have had some twenty years' practical ex- 
perience with the system, whereas the people of the Bay 
would possess at best the blueprints of Bradshaw. If the 
churches of the Bay then sought the advice of Plymouth 
about details it would be because they were already dis- 
posed to erect a Congregational regime, and because 
they would have proceeded along essentially the same 
line had there been no Plymouth at all. 

Such a version seems to me substantiated by what 
happened. The Salem settlers became afflicted with 
scurvy in the spring of 1629, and Bradford charitably 
despatched Dr. Fuller, a deacon of the Plymouth church, 
to render medical service and spiritual consolation. 
Endecott replied in a letter of thanks, which Bradford 


quotes in his History because it " shows the beginning of 
their acquaintance, and closinge in the truth and ways of 
God." Fuller probably talked polity as much as he did 
pills, but surely he found a ready audience. Endecott 
himself was a friend of Hugh Peter, whom he had asked 
the Company to secure as minister for the post. 1 This 
fact speaks volumes on Endecott's opinion, since in 1628 
he could not have had Peter at Salem without having 
Congregationalism there also. He was, consequently, 
speaking more literally than has generally been supposed 
when he told Bradford that Fuller had satisfied him 
" touching your judgment of the out ward forms of Gods 
worship; it is (as far as I can yet gather) no other then is 
warranted by the evidence of Truth, and the same which 
I have professed and maintained ever since the Lord in 
mercie revealed him selfe unto me." Endecott could not 
have spoken this way had he just been converted from 
Presbyterian Puritanism to Congregational Separatism; 
his whole tone is that of a man who has received cor- 
roboration for his own belief from unexpected quarters, 
because Fuller's description of Plymouth polity, he 
added, was "far from the common reporte that hath 
been spread of you touching that perticular." Hence he 
concluded that " God's people are all marked with one 
and the same mark," that among them " there can be no 
discorde," and that Plymouth and Salem ought to be 
great friends. 2 

There is every reason to believe the ministers of Salem 

1. Massachusetts Records, i, 385. 

2. Bradford, "Letter Book," Mass. Hist. Soc. y Coll., Series i, in, 64-66; 
Bradford, History (ed. W. C. Ford), n, 90. 


were of the same mind. When Skelton and Higginson 
took passage in April, 1629, the Company told Endecott 
they had " declared themselues to vs to bee of one judg- 
ment, & to bee fully agreed on the manner how to exer- 
cise their ministry/' l They were given carte blanche to 
do what they wished: "For the mannor of the exercising 
their ministrie, & teaching both or owne people and the 
Indians, wee leave that to themselues, hoping they will 
make Gods word the rule of their actions/' 2 If the Com- 
pany did not know what to expect of these men under 
such circumstances, it was unaccountably stupid. Hig- 
ginson was one of Thomas Hooker's "scholars," and had 
already shown his Congregational leanings in his English 
ministry by attempting to debar ignorant and scandal- 
ous persons from the Lord's Supper. 3 He was recom- 
mended to the Company by Increase Nowell on March 
23, 1629,4 and at the time he was notified of his oppor- 
tunity was hourly expecting pursuivants from the High 
Commission. He was also well known to Arthur Hilder- 
sham, whose recommendation the Company instructed 
Humfrey to secure before he engaged Higginson. This 
Hildersham was a prominent Puritan, a conspicuous 
enemy of Separation; he was not himself a Congrega- 
tionalist, but seems to have been friendly with those who 
were, for Cotton wrote prefaces to two of his works. Less 
is known about Skelton, but the Company wrote they 
were informed that Endecott himself had "formerly 
received much good by his ministry." s If he was satis- 

i. Massachusetts Records, i, 394. 2. 7;W.,p. 387. 

3. Magnalia, I, 356-357. 

4. Massachusetts Records , I, 37. 5. Ibid.^p. 386. 


factory to Endecott, the friend of Peter, the probabili- 
ties are he was a Congregationalist, which is a conclusion 
Cotton later substantiated when he wrote, "Sure I am, 
Mr Skelton . . . was studious of that way, before he left 
Holland in Lincolnshire." I 

Therefore it seems to have been quite in keeping with 
the predilections of Endecott and the ministers that on 
July 20, 1629, the Salem church was founded and the 
ministers ordained along Congregational lines. Skelton 
and Higginson acknowledged a twofold calling, one 
from within and the other "an outward calling, which 
was from the people, when a company of believers are 
joyned togither in covenante, to walk togither in all the 
ways of God and every member (being men) are to have 
a free voyce in the choyce of their officers/' They were 
then ordained by the laying on of hands. 2 It is utterly 
inconceivable that so completely Congregational a cere- 
mony could have been enacted by these people merely 
because Deacon Fuller bent a headstrong man like 
Endecott, or suddenly converted two able ministers like 
Skelton and Higginson to a Separatist way of thinking, 
and it is nothing short of absurd to conclude that all 
later churches in Massachusetts followed the lead of 
Salem like so many sheep. Sixty years of ecclesiastical 
disputation lay in the background of these men, and by 
this time they knew what they wanted. Fuller may have 
furnished helpful suggestions, but the mainspring of the 
action had been wound up by other hands in England. 

If the ministers at Salem had really stolen a march 

1. Cotton, The Way o] the Congregational Churches Cleared^ pt. I, p. 1 6. 

2. Bradford, "Letter Book," Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, in, 67. 


upon the Company, if the establishment of a Congrega- 
tional church had been distasteful to the reigning ele- 
ment in the corporation, the whole proceeding could 
have been disallowed by the proper authorities; and if 
the authorities did not do so, it was not from lack of op- 
portunity. Among the men who came out with Ende- 
cott were two brothers by the name of Browne. They 
were not very radical Puritans and were shocked at the 
ecclesiastical revolution enacted in Salem. Gathering a 
few like-minded settlers apart, they read the Prayer 
Book. Endecott arraigned them, and after the ministers 
had denied their charge of having turned Separatist, 
shipped them back home, saying "New England was no 
place for such as they." * Naturally, they raised trouble 
in England and very decidedly embarrassed the Com- 
pany; the way it met the occasion, however, is eloquent. 
The Brownes were recompensed for what they had ad- 
ventured, 2 and letters which are in a fair way to being 
masterpieces of a sort were immediately sent to the 
ministers and to Endecott. First the ministers were 
properly scolded and told to repent their miscarriage, or 
"at least to take notice that wee vtterly disallowe any 
such passages, and must and will take order for the 
redress therof, as shall become vs." But upon what 
grounds? Because Congregationalism was schismatical? 
Not at all. In the next sentence the letter revealed the 
pole-star by which at the moment the Company plotted 
its course, and the ministers hardly had to read between 
the lines to perceive just where their offence had lain: 

1. Massachusetts Records, I, 51-64, 69, 407. 

2. Ibid., pp. 60, 69. 


But hoping, as wee said, of yor vnblameableness heerin, wee de- 
sire only that this may testify to yow & others that wee are tender of 
the least aspersion which, either directly or obliquely, may bee cast 
vpon the state heere, to whome wee owe soe much duty, and from 
whom wee haue received soe much fauor. 1 

The letter to Endecott never even suggested a condem- 
nation of the principle on which he had acted, but em- 
phasized merely the question of his tact: 

We may haue leave to think that it is possible some vndigested 
councells haue too sodainely bin put in execution, which may haue 
ill construction with the state heere, and make vs obnoxious to any 
adversary. Lett it, therefore, seeme good vnto yow to bee very spar- 
ing of introduceing any lawes or commands which may render 
yorselfe or vs distasteful! to the state heere, to which (as wee ought) 
wee must and will haue an obsequious eye. 3 

Those about to depart from England knew well enough 
when they wrote this in what direction their advance 
guard had turned; and their only concern was that the 
English government should not get wind of it until they 
too could escape with their precious charter. 

When the main body finally did get away, and settled 
in the Bay, then Plymouth seems to have figured in 
about the same role as at Salem. The Dorchester so- 
ciety, we have already noted, was composed of followers 
of John White and was not yet of a Congregational 
temper; Deacon Fuller, who visited Charlestown in 
June, 1630, argued with Wareham, "till I was weary/' 
without being able to convince him that promiscuous 
admission to church membership was unlawful an 
example, certainly, of how little Fuller would have suc- 
ceeded the year before if Endecott and the Salem minis- 

i. Ibid.) pp. 407-408. 2. /*</., p. 408. 


ters had been disciples of White rather than of Peter and 
Hooker. The two other ministers of the Bay, however, 
could meet with Fuller's approval. John Wilson was a 
student of Baynes and a friend of Ames; he had already 
twice been silenced in England. 1 Phillips of Watertown 
was, as Cotton Mather says, "better acquainted with 
the true church discipline than most of the ministers that 
came with him into the country"; 2 he told Fuller, "if 
they will have him stand minister by that calling which 
he received from the prelates in England, he will leave 
them/' which meant simply that he would acknowledge 
only the same kind of calling that Skelton and Higgin- 
son invoked. Fuller declared that among the immigrants 
there were some enemies to Plymouth, but also "many 
friends/' among whom he accounted Winthrop, since 
that gentleman told him they should probably need 
some advice and might send for Bradford. Fuller learned 
from Coddington that "Mr. Cotton's charge at Hamp- 
ton was that they should take advice of them at Plym- 
outh, and should do nothing to offend them/' By this 
time the deacon found Endecott "a second Burrow." 3 
At the moment of the colonists' arrival an inclination 
toward Congregationalism clearly existed among some 
of them, which needed only a little guidance to be trans- 
lated into action. The prod came from Salem, whither 
Winthrop wrote for advice; Fuller, Winslow, and Aller- 
ton were then up from Plymouth, and the Salem minis- 
ters conferred with them. All agreed that Winthrop and 
his group should form a church, but at first should admit 

p. 377. 
3. Bradford, "Letter Book," Mass. Hist. Soc. t Coll., Series i, in, 74-?5- 


only a few whose sentiments were well known. Salem 
and Plymouth both set apart a day to beseech the Lord's 
blessing. 1 Upon July 30 the Charlestown church was 
formed, the first membership consisting of only Win- 
throp, Dudley, Johnson, and Wilson. 2 On the same day 
the church at Watertown under George Phillips was 
gathered in a similar Congregational fashion. 

That Massachusetts deliberately copied its order from 
Plymouth was first charged against the colony some 
fourteen years later by the Presbyterian chieftains, 
Rathband, Baillie, and Edwards, who then wished to 
discredit English Independency. 3 Cotton replied by ad- 
vancing substantially the interpretation we have out- 
lined and which, upon the basis of such evidence as we 
possess, seems the only one permissible. Although it is 
true, he said, that Massachusetts and Plymouth did set 
up " the same modell of Churches, one like to another/' 
yet that "it was after Mr. Robinson s pattern, is spoken 
gratis: for I beleeve most of them knew not what it was, 
if any at all." 4 The Bible, he declared, had been the 
source of the colonists' objection to "the burden of 
Episcopacy and Conformity," and the second com- 
mandment the reason for their having laid aside the 
Book of Common Prayer; as for their other doctrines, 

The particular visible Church of a Congregation to be the first 
subject of the power of the Keyes, we received by the light of the 
Word from Mr. Parker, Mr. Baynes and Dr. Ames: from whom also, 

i. Ibid., p. 75. 

1. Ibid., p. 76; Walker, Creeds and Platforms, pp. 105, 108. 

3. Rathband, A Brief e Narration, p. I; Baillie, Dissuasive, p. 54; Edwards, 
Antapologia, pp. 4 2 ~43- 

4. The Way oj the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. I, p. 17. 


(from two of them at least) we received light out of the Word, for the 
matter of the visible Church to be visible Saints and the Form of it, 
to be a mutuall Covenant, whether an explicite or implicite Profes- 
sion of Faith, and subjection to the Gospel of Christ in the society of 
the Church, or Presbytery thereof. 

Since these tenets had been handed down by men who 
were not Brownists, their consanguinity ''with any the 
like found amongst the Separatists, will not demonstrate 
the Separatists to be our Fathers." ' 

This contention seems secured beyond dispute when 
Plymouth itself agrees. Bradford specifically approved 
Cotton's version of the story and declared there "was no 
agreement by any solemn or common consultation" be- 
tween the two colonies, although they both, moved 
by the same spirit of truth, did happen to erect similar 
polities. 2 Winslow, in his Hypocrisie Unmasked, in 1646, 
reiterated the same plea; the "chiefe" of the great mi- 
gration, it is true, " advised with us," and we "accord- 
ingly shewed them the Primitive practice for our war- 
rant. ... So that here also thou maist see they set not 
the Church at Plimouth before them for example, but 
the Primitive Churches were and are their and our 
mutuall patternes and examples." 3 

A final and I think conclusive indication of the true 
sources for Massachusetts Congregationalism lies in a 
fact with which, so far as I can discover, commentators 
have never adequately grappled: although the good wits 
of Plymouth and the Bay did, as Hubbard put it, 

1. Ibid., p. 13. 

2. Bradford, "Dialogue," Young, Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers , p. 426. 

3. Hypocrisie Unmasked (1646), cd. Howard Millar Chapin, The Club for 
Colonial Reprints (Providence, 1916), p. 92. 


"strangely jump very near together/' ' Massachusetts 
nevertheless consistently maintained it was not and 
never had been Separatist. From the beginning the en- 
terprise had remained officially loyal on that score. The 
Dorchester Company, being the brain-child of John 
White, naturally was hostile to schismatics and wel- 
comed Lyford and Conant to Cape Anne when they left 
Plymouth, disgusted with the way of Separation. 2 The 
new elements in the Company took power from White's 
hands and dedicated the adventure to a Congregational 
ideal, but they retained the original public allegiance to 
the Church of England. As Land's End faded from 
view, Francis Higginson is reputed to have cried out 
"Farewell," not as Separatists were wont to say farewell 
to "Babylon," but as a churchman to the Church of 
God in England: 

We do not go to New-England as separatists from the Church of 
England; though we cannot but separate from the corruptions in it: 
but we go to practise the positive part of Church reformation, and 
propagate the gospel in America. * 

When the brothers Browne accused the Salem ministers 
of becoming Separatists, Higginson and Skelton replied 
they were "neither Separatists nor Anabaptists," that 
they had not separated from the Church of God in Eng- 
land but from its corruptions, and that since they 

had suffered much for their non-conformity in their native land . . . 
being in a place they might have their liberty, they neither could nor 

1. William Hubbard, General History of New England (1680), Mass. Hist. 
Soc., Coll. y Series 2, v, 117. 

2. Ibid.) p. 106. 3. Magnalia^ I, 362. 


would use them; inasmuch as they judged the imposition of these 
things to be a sinful violation of the worship of God. 1 

In 1629 the Company blindly engaged another minis- 
ter, one Ralph Smith, and then discovered he was a 
Separatist; the line between the two kinds of Congrega- 
tionalists was sometimes hard to discover, but the fact 
that the corporation did, if somewhat too late, realize 
the distinction in this case proves at once both its own 
position and that of Skelton and Higginson. Smith was 
required to forswear exercising a ministry unless by 
Endecott's permission, 2 and Craddock wrote in haste to 
explain how Smith had been shipped "before wee vn- 
derstood of his difference of judgment in some things 
from or ministers/* Craddock instinctively assumed the 
tone of a guardian of an established order confronting an 
incendiary, a tone strangely similar to that in which the 
bishops habitually spoke: 

Hence it is feared there may growe some distraction amongst 
yow. . . . We haue therfore thought fitt to giue yow this order, that 
vnless hee wilbe conformable to or gouernment, yow suffer him not 
to remaine within the limitts of or graunt. 3 

When the Arbella was riding in the harbor at Cowes, 
Winthrop and the leaders of the migration signed a brief 
address to " the rest of their Brethren in and of the 
Church of England/' which shortly thereafter, while 
they were yet on the high seas, was published as 'The 
Humble Request. The authorship of this pamphlet, a 
moot question among antiquarians, is not a material 

i. Ibid., p. 73. 

i. Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay (1765), I, 10. 
3. Massachusetts Records^ I, 390. 


question, for all the leaders subscribed it, and none of 
them need have strained their consciences in doing so, 
since it said nothing beyond what Jacob and Bradshaw 
had already profusely uttered: 

We . . . esteem it our honor to call the Church of England . . . 
our dear mother . . . ever acknowledging that such hope and part 
as we have obtained in the common salvation, we have received in 
her bosom and sucked it from her breasts. We leave it not, there- 
fore, as loathing that milk wherewith we were nourished there; but 
blessing God for the parantage and education, as members of the 
same body, shall always rejoice in her good. 1 

Behind such an assertion it is not difficult to trace the 
familiar casuistry of Non-separation, but there was a 
gusto in this statement that arose from its being em- 
ployed in the prospect of a new effectiveness. While 
Puritans remained in England, the more they utilized 
the plea, the more they found it throwing their actions 
into unpleasant contrast with their professions; but 
when they employed it from across the ocean, where 
even the sharp eye of Laud could not scan their doings 
too closely, then they saw in their shift an almost invul- 
nerable defense. Behind this bulwark the churches 
could become completely Congregationalized, even to 
the point where they would no longer be distinguishable 
from Separatist organizations, and yet as long as there 
had been no formal Separation, as long as the churches 
could claim to be simply purified and transported Eng- 
lish parishes, the principle of uniformity had not been 
infringed. Massachusetts was not schismatical. 

If the pose was to be effective at all, it had to be stated 
clearly from the very beginning, all the more because at 

i. Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts , p. 296. 


the time certain critics had evidently realized the truth. 
There were "suspicious and scandalous reports" being 
raised, which " by casting the vndertakers into the jeal- 
ousie of State" threatened "to shut them out of those 
advantages which otherwise they doe and might expect 
from the Countenance of Authoritie." x These rumors 
had to be quashed, in order, as Coddington said, "to 
satisfie the Godly minded of our Removal out of Eng- 
land." 2 The difficult task devolved upon John White. 
He published The Planters Plea soon after the fleet 
sailed, and the point of this ingenious work is utterly 
lost today unless the reader comprehends how very 
urgent it was at that particular moment that the adven- 
ture be cleared of all taint of Separation. White was 
aware of reports being circulated that the migration had 
been made up of "men of ill affected minds" who se- 
cretly "harboured faction and separation from the 
Church" under the cloak of religion. The Humble Re- 
quest and the record of the men ought to be sufficient 
evidence that they had never been factious nor had ever 
separated from the assemblies or ministry of the Church. 

I perswade my selfe there is no one Separatist knowne unto the 
Governours, or if there be any, that it is as farre from their purpose 
as it is from their safety, to continue him amongst them. 

But there were other whisperings which hinted that 
though these men were not Separatists, 

yet they dislike our discipline and ceremonies, and so they will 
prove themselves semi-separatists at least, and that is their intention 
in removing from us, that they may free themselves from our govern- 

i. The Planters P/ea y p. 77. 2. Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc., XLIII, 503. 


To this, as it seems to us rather accurate, suspicion, 
White's reply is extremely significant. " I conceive," he 
said, "we doe and ought to put a great difference be- 
tweene Separation and Non-conformity/' Thus he in- 
voked the already historic distinction whereby he could 
exonerate mere dissent by loudly condemning Separa- 
tism as something "we cannot beare." But when he 
came, as he could not avoid coming, to the question of 
what the Non-conformist practice in New England 
would be, the poor man plainly hedged, for he well 
enough knew what Winthrop and his friends had in 
mind. You might say, he granted, that the emigrants 
were wearied of church ceremonies "and goe over with 
an intention to cast them off"; "intentions are secret, 
who can discover them; but what have they done to 
manifest such an intention?" He was sure there could 
be no extensive conspiracy among the mass, for they had 
come from too diverse sources, and Winthrop should 
answer for the leaders, "a publike person," who had 
always been "euery way regular and conformable in the 
whole course of his practise." The emigrants were, it 
was true, taking only Non-conforming ministers with 
them, but they could get no others. And after all, even 
granting they intended a few innovations, 

there is great oddes betweene peaceable men, who out of tender- 
nesse of heart forbeare the use of some ceremonies of the Church 
. . . and men of fiery and turbulent spirits, that walke in a crosse 
way out of distemper of minde. 

Have not those men who know themselves unable to 
conform and therefore withdraw themselves rather than 
disrupt the peace of their beloved Church have they 


not such dispositions as should " be cherished with great 
tendernesse?" It was indeed probable that many would 
insist upon a few departures, and others might admit the 
innovations "for the maintaining of peace and unitie"; 
furthermore, "wants and necessities cannot but cause 
many changes/' But that the men were far "from pro- 
jecting the erecting of this Colony for a Nursery of 
Schismatickes" appeared from the history of the Com- 
pany and of the charter, which White recounted, con- 
cluding that such evidence was enough to bring God's 
vengeance upon those who followed "that base and un- 
christian course of traducing innocent persons, under 
those odious names of Separatists and enemies to the 
Church and State." x 

It was, surely, a flimsy and transparent " plea/' but it 
was the only line circumstances left open to a people who 
were at one and the same time convinced of the absolute 
truth of a dissenting program and of the absolute neces- 
sity for orthodox uniformity. It was the old attempt to 
maintain a subordination in principle where there was 
an opposition in practice, and at best it was bound to 
rest on an illogical foundation. Puritans were simply 
wearied out with sixty years of fruitless controversy, and 
with Laud in power they completely despaired of the 
prospect. Upon Non-separating Congregationalists the 
situation pressed the heaviest, for their subordination to 
the Established Church was supremely difficult to main- < 
tain. The wisest policy for them was to save appearances 
in the best way possible and get out. "And truly," said 
Hugh Peter, "my reason for my self and others to go, 

I. ^he Planters P/ea, pp. 59-78. 


was meerly not to offend Authority in that difference of 
Judgment/' ' Thus it was, when "times were so bad in 
England that they could not worship God after the due 
manner prescribed in his most holy word, but they must 
be imprisoned, excommunicated/' 2 when, as Gorges 
remembered, Parliament was dismissed, "whereby 
divers were so fearfull what would follow so unaccus- 
tomed an action," when " the principall of those liberall 
speakers being committed to the Tower . . . tooke all 
hope of Reformation of Church-Government from many 
not affecting Episcopal Jurisdiction,'* then it was that 
"some of the discreeter sort to avoid what they found 
themselves subject unto, made use of their friends to 
procure from the Councell for the affaires of New- 
England to settle a Colony within their Limits.'* 3 The 
royal charter was obtained, Craddock wrote, " with great 
cost, fauor of personages of note, & much labor/' 4 but 
it was worth all that, because 

by which said lettres pattents wee are incorporated into a body 
polhtique, with ample power to gouerne & rule all his maiesties sub- 
iects that reside within the limitts of our plantation. 5 

A political government set up in the colony "by virtue 
of his Majesty's letters patent, and under his gracious 
protection" 6 was, from a legal standpoint, impeccable. 

1. A Dying Fathers Legacy (1660), p. 101. 

2. Roger Clap, "Memoirs," Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts, p. 356. 

3. Sir Fcrdinando Gorges, "Briefe Narration," J. P. Baxter, Sir Ferdi- 
nando Gorges and his province of Maine, n, 58-59; Gorges's memory has 
here confused the charter of 1628 with the royal charter of 1629, but his 
account of the motives rings true. 

4. Massachusetts Records, i, 387. 

5. Ibid., p. 386. 

6. Dudley, "Letter to Countess of Lincoln " (1631), Young, op. /., p. 331. 


On the other hand, the Christians of the colony, de- 
parting from the churches of England, not as from false 
churches, but merely from "the corruptions found 
among them/' were, Cotton insisted, excused by 
" Doctor Ames . . . (yea, and the Holy Ghost also) from 
aspersion of schism or any other sin, in so doing/* l 
Thus whatever state and church the colony erected were 
legitimate offshoots of the State and Church of England, 
and within the jurisdiction of the grant could perform all 
the acts pertaining to a commonwealth and an estab- 
lished church, could cooperate to maintain orthodox 
uniformity, and could define heresy to suit themselves. 
This may have been sophistry, but Massachusetts was 
founded on it. 

It is impossible to say how early the complete vision of 
this solution for the Puritan dilemma dawned upon 
those who ultimately carried it through. Endecott and 
Peter may have cherished hopes in 1628. Considerable 
light would be thrown upon the story could we unravel 
the baffling mystery of the charter itself. Contrary to 
the universal custom, this document entirely omitted to 
specify a particular residence for the corporation's head- 
quarters. The evidence we possess seems to indicate 
that this hiatus was not accidental. Winthrop wrote in 
1644 that heretofore it had been the manner for those 
who procured patents to keep the chief government res- 
ident in England, and u so this was intended & with 
much difficulty we gott it abscinded." 2 The docquet 
containing the application for a charter asked the privi- 

1. Thf Way oj the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. i, p. 14. 

2. R. C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Wimhrop y n, 443. 


lege of "electing governors and officers here in Eng- 
land/' I and the strange failure of this restriction to be 
transcribed into the final draft appears, to say the least, 
providential. But however it was brought about, the 
fact that the Company was not bound to one locality 
provided a priceless opportunity to those who very badly 
needed it. From the day the Company made its deci- 
sion, the tone of the leaders was unmistakable; they went 
to work with as little commotion as possible, feverishly 
intent upon getting their patent beyond reach of their 
enemies. On September 29 a committee was appointed 
"to take advice of learned councell" whether the re- 
moval might legally be made; 2 whether or not the com- 
mittee turned in a report we do not know, but the Com- 
pany's scruples were evidently satisfied. Otherwise they 
showed themselves no particular sticklers for form. The 
meeting of October 20 was called for the election of gov- 
ernor, and Winthrop was chosen several months before 
the annual election was due, which according to the 
charter should have been the last Wednesday of the 
Easter term; Craddock stepped out before his term was 
over without there being any provision for resignation. 
When the proper day came round, the Company was all 
thankfully on shipboard and forgot elections until the 
next year, so that Winthrop held office under an illegal 
ballot for a good eighteen months. These acts were in- 
fringements of the charter, but they were means to an 

i Lowe!/ Institute Lectures, p. 381; Charles Deane, Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc., 
Series i, xi, 166 ff.; Mellen Chamberlain, ibid., Series 2, vin, 1 10; Frances 
Rose-Troup, The Massachusetts Bay Company and Its Predecessors, 
pp. 76-78. 

2. Massachusetts Records, i, 52. 


end and they eloquently betray the determination of 
these Puritans to make the most of their one chance to 
escape. 1 

' By hook or by crook, then, the Non-separating Puri- 
tans, the energetic and hard-pressed disciples of Ames 
and Bradshaw, extricated themselves from the toils of 
English ecclesiastical disputation and set out to achieve 
in Massachusetts what they had failed to accomplish in 
England. The implicit Congregationalism their masters 
had read into the English parishes was now to be made 
explicit. 1 "That which the most in theire churches 
mainetaine as truth in profession onely," Winthrop lec- 
tured passengers on the Arbella, "wee must bring into 
familiar and constant practice." 2 ' If they could not 
abolish the hierarchy, Puritans could remove it by 
putting between it and themselves a ditch so wide " they 
could not leap over with a lope-staff." 3 America to the 
Puritans spelled opportunity as distinctly as ever it has 
to later immigrants, for it meant the cessation of protest 
,and the beginning of construction. "It is one thing for 
the church, or members of the church/' Cotton declared, 
"loyally to submit unto any form of government, when 
it is above their calling to reform it, another thing to 
chuse a form of government and governors discrepant 
from the rule/' 4 In New England there was no longer 
need "to strive against ceremonies, or to fight against 

1. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Sixteenth Century , i, 145 ff.; Rose- 
Troup, op. cit. y pp. 78-80. 

2. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 3, vn, 45. 

3. Edward Johnson, The Wonder Working Providences of S ion's Saviour in 
New England (ed. W. F. Poole, Andover, 1867), p. 20. 

4. Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay (1764), i, 494. 


shadows/' x ''What you may doe in England, where 
things are otherwise established/' Winthrop wrote to 
Sir Simonds D'Ewes, "I will not dispute; but or case 
here is otherwise, being come to dearer light & more 
Libertye, which we trust by the good hand of or God 
with us, & the gratious indulgence of or Kinge, we may 
freely enjoye it/' 2 That "gratious indulgence" was a 
neat touch, for when Charles and his great archbishop 
found out how nicely they had been duped they were not 
particularly "gratious" about it; but New Englanders 
had already closed that chapter in their lives. Confident 
that they had sidestepped the dilemma of English Pur- 
itanism by legitimate and respectable means, they had 
dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the serious busi- 
ness of living "under a due form of government, both 
civil and ecclesiastical." 3 

1. Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts, p. 441. 

2. Pub. Col. Soc. Mass., vn, 71-72. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 3, vu, 45. 



JOHN WINTHROP defined the supreme objective of 
the Massachusetts Colony as " a due form of govern- 
ment/' in both State and Churck. But for reasons not 
far to seek, the leaders realized that in church matters 
they must proceed cautiously. Their conceptions of 
polity had hitherto been largely theoretical; many exi- 
gencies had not been foreseen, and they preferred not to 
cross bridges until they came to them. Also, they had 
not forgotten the instructions they themselves had given 
Endecott, that "an obsequious eye" should be kept 
open upon the English government. The leaders were at 
liberty to realize their own likes and dislikes, but they 
readily perceived that there was no sense in flaunting 
their deeds before a notoriously unsympathetic monarch. 
The clergy, therefore, once they found themselves se- 
curely established in America, revealed a marked tend- 
ency to stave off as long as possible a formal codification 
of their Way. Richard Mather explained to a number of 
English Puritans that in Massachusetts written plat- 
forms were frowned upon because Christians should find 
truth directly in the Bible, and the imposing of man- 
made confessions "doth seeme to abridge them of that 
liberty/' r Winthrop spoke more to the point when he 

I. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed y p. 64. 


objected to codifying the colony's laws in 1634 because 
thereby some principles would have to be declared 
which surely would run counter to English law; whereas, 
he said, if things were simply allowed to grow, " by prac- 
tice and custom ... as in our church discipline/' there 
would be no formal repudiation of English precedents. 1 
Consequently, when " these persecuted servants of 
Christ Jesus first set foot on these American shores/* 
their first concern was to satisfy their long-starved appe- 
tites for sermons; realizing that their tongues were at 
last " untied from the Prelates Injunctions, they preach 
with all diligence to their auditors, doubling their hours 
to regain their lost time/' 2 Behind the barrage of this 
pulpit oratory the discipline was unobtrusively set up 
and started on its career. 

Step by step the principles which had been implicit in 
the ecclesiastical creed of the immigrants received an 
outward expression. Throughout the course of this de- 
velopment the issues which Puritanism had raised in the 
homeland continued to occupy men's minds. The New 
England settlers carried to virgin shores a set of com- 
plex problems, for which they had one definite solution, 
and dedicated themselves to proving that solution to be 
not merely feasible, but the only fashion in which the 
difficulties of society at large could ultimately be disen- 
tangled. A due form of government in Massachusetts 
was to be an object-lesson for the resolution of the reli- 
gious dissension of an erring world. 

1. Winthrop, Journal^ I, 324. 

2. "Good newes from New England" (1648), Mass. Hist. Soc. t Co//., Series 


The enterprise was a by-product of the Reformation, 
a spark shot out from a century of religious friction. 
From its inception the colony was consciously dedicated 
to achieving the uniformity to which all reformers had 
aspired. It was to prove that the Bible could be made a 
rule of life, that the essentials of religion could be de- 
rived from Scripture, and then reinforced by the en- 
lightened dictation of godly magistrates. It was to show 
that these essentials included polity as well as dogma, 
and that the one legitimate polity was Congregational- 
ism. Because it would harmonize true uniformity with 
the true Church, the colony must continue theoretically 
loyal to its sovereign and his Church; it must give no en- 
couragement to Separation, in either England or New 
England. It was to convince the world that a govern- 
ment could admit the Puritan claim for delimitation of 
the civil supremacy by the Word of God without sacri- 
ficing a genuine control over the nation's Church, that 
the King of England could easily permit the churches of 
England to become Congregational without destroying 
their continuity or altering the fabric of society. It was, 
in short, to demonstrate conclusively that Congrega- 
tionalism could and should be a competent state religion. 

The mainstay of the Massachusetts system continued 
to be Non-separation." New England apologists devoted 
a larger proportion of their writings to the elucidation of 
this position than to any other theme, reproducing the 
arguments, and even sometimes the phraseology, of 
Ames and his school. "As for our selves, wee look not 
upon our departure to these parts to be a separation 
(rigidly taken) but a lawfull secession, or a heavenly 


translation from corrupt to more pure churches/' x 
Corruptions in the English churches were still held to be, 
at the worst, venial. "The Church may be Christs love, 
yea, and a fragrant and pure flower in his sight and nos- 
trils, and yet live amongst bryars and thornes:" 2 he^nce, 

to make the English Churches, and their Ministries, and their Wor- 
ship, and their Professors, either nullities, or Anti-christian, is a 
witnesse not onely beyond the truth, but against the Truth of the 
Lord Jesus, and his word of Truth. 3 

The parishes had gone astray cut of ignorance, and 
though they were to be commiserated, yet 

in as much as the Articles of Religion, which they professe, containe 
such wholesome doctrine, that whosoever beleeveth and walketh 
according thereunto, in sinceritie, shall undoubtedly be saved, and 
in as much as the corruptions are not persisted in with obstinacy, 
therefore wee deny not but they have the truth of Churches remain- 
ing- 4 

The unimaginative Dudley once objected that the 
Church of England held the wrong theological interpre- 
tation of Christ's descent into Hell, but Winthrop put 
him aside, saying, "the faithfull in England (whom we 
account the Churches) expound it as we do." s New 
Englanders still remembered that English magistrates 
forced men to be members of the Church, but " this doth 
not hinder the voluntary subjection of others, who with 
all their hearts desired it." 6 In fact, Thomas Hooker 

1. Shepard and Allin, A Defence oj the Answer, p. 28. 

2. Cotton, A Brief e Exposition of the whole Book of Canticles, p. 62. 

3. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams" (1647), pub - Nana^ansett Club, n, 

4. Richard Mather, An Apologie oj the Churches in Ncx England, p. 41. 

5. Winthrop, 'Journal, i, 105. 

6. Richard Mather, op. '/., p. 38. 


actually argued that as long as the congregations of 
England voluntarily submitted to any ecclesiastical 
law, no matter how false, " they declare that by their 
practices^ which others do hold forth by publike pro- 
fession ."* The mythical covenant could still be posited 
as the unsuspected foundation of the parishes. " Con- 
gregations in England are truly Churches having an 
implicite covenant/' 2 and therefore "no voyce of Christ 
hath declared the Churches of England to be false 
Churches/' 3 

To Puritans three thousand miles from Lambeth the 
Non-separating casuistry held out advantages that had 
been unsuspected in closer proximity. If, for instance, 
their migration actually was nothing more than a trans- 
lation from good churches to better, the ministers had a 
logical explanation for accepting offices from their con- 
gregations, without necessarily renouncing their loyalty 
to England. If in the homeland their ordination had 
been defective, it had been, as Ames taught them, none 
the less true " in substance." We do not believe, Cotton 
explained, that ministers ever received a calling from 
bishops; " their vocation or calling is from Christ by the 
Election or at least acceptation of the Congregation." 4 
The confirmation of a bishop or patron was " adventi- 
tious and accidental." Pirates capturing a ship might 
prevent a man from coming to his own goods, but they 
could not give him a true and proper right to that which 
he held by a former just title: " I need not apply it to the 

1. Hooker, Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline^ pt. I, p. 48. 

2. Shepard and Allin, op. '/., p. 13. 

3. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 150. 

4. 7&W.,pp. 221-222. 


case in hand, the Application is obvious/' r When a 
minister left his church, even if it was a true church, he 
was, by Congregational theory, no longer a minister 
until reordained by the church to which he had removed. 
Consequently when Skelton and Higginson took up their 
office at Salem on the strength of an " inward call" from 
the Lord, and an "outward calling which was from the 
people," they understood no reference was necessary to 
their ministry in England, for they had automatically 
ceased to be ministers when they had left their congre- 
gations, or rather had been forced out by the prelatical 
"pirates." Phillips of Watertown, in 1630, meant the 
same thing when he said he would not stand by that 
calling he had received in England. At the formation of 
the Charlestown church the principle was more clearly 
enunciated. Wilson was ordained by the imposition of 
hands, "but with this protestation by all, that it was 
only as a sign of election and confirmation, not of any 
intent that Mr. Wilson should renounce his ministry he 
received in England." 2 In essence there was no differ- 
ence between this and the Salem ceremony or the atti- 
tude of Phillips; the protest was added only as a political 
protocol. But not until 1637, at the formation of the 
Concord church, was the theory given its final touch. It 
was then decided that ministers who had been ordained 
in England were lawfully invested by the call of their 
congregations there that is, in so far as the churches 
of England could be described congregationally, they 
were true churches and could give the substance of a 

i . Cotton, The grounds and ends of the baptisms of the children of the faithful^ 
p. 182. 2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 52. 


true call "notwithstanding their acceptance of the 
call of the bishops (for which they humbled themselves, 
acknowledging it their sin) but being come hither, they 
accounted themselves no ministers, until they were 
called to another church/' ' Any description of the 
ministers* removal, said Cotton, would be a " fraudulent 
expression " if it did not continually insist that the exiles 
had been "cast out from thence by the usurping power 
of the Prelacy, and dismissed (though against their 
wills) by our Congregations." 2 New England repre- 
sented the residue of truth inherent in the Church, a 
residue now freed from its English alloys. By removing, 
the Puritans did not separate, but merely began in 
America a reform which would some day be carried to 
completion at home. 

When rumors of practices in New England spread 
abroad, some of them were not unnaturally interpreted 
to be those of the Separatists, and the conclusion to 
many onlookers seemed obvious. But such deductions 
Weld insisted were "against all common sense," for we 
"(professedly) in our writings, preachings, practises 
manifest the contrary, and testifie as oft as occasion 
serves, the great dislike of their rigid Separation." 3 
Williams, with his customary eye for realities- -- and his 
habitual lack of tact bluntly declared that the people 
of Massachusetts walked "betwixt Christe and Anti- 
christe ... in practising separation here, and not re- 
penting of our preaching and printing against it in our 

1. Ibid. y i y 213. 

2. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 219. 

3. Weld, An Answer to W. R. y p. 8. 


own country/' but Cotton said that this was a willful 
misrepresentation of the path they had hewn out of the 
wilderness, for instead they were walking " with an even 
foote between two extreames; so that we neither defile 
our selves with the remnant of pollutions in other 
Churches, nor doo we for the remnant of pollutions 
renounce the Churches themselves." z 

Navigation between the Scylla of Separation and the 
Charybdis of corruption was a hazardous undertaking, 
but the Massachusetts divines were convinced it could 
be done. They refused to see in Congregationalism 
any necessary connection with schism, and Cotton was 
properly incensed that Williams should attempt to prove 
Separation "out of the Principles and grounds of those 
holy Saints of God, whom he misnameth Puritans/' 2 
Richard Mather triumphantly adduced " Master Parker 
and Doctor Ames" both of whom "plead for Church- 
Covenant, and yet neither of them were Brownists, but 
bare witnesse against that riged Separation." 3 Do not 
believe, Davenport pleaded, that "we here justified the 
wayes of rigid separation, which sometimes amongst you 
we have formerly born witnesse against." 4 "Be it so," 
chimed in John Norton, " that we are in the utmost parts 
of the Earth; we have onely changed our Climate, not 
our mindes." 5 Indeed, so widely known were the inten- 
tions of the New England immigrants in 1631 that a 
Separatist author bewailed the numbers of his persua- 

1. Cotton, "A Letter to Roger Williams," Pub. Narragansett Club, I, 308. 

2. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 198. 

3. Richard Mather, An Apologie oj the Churches, p. 41. 

4. Davenport, An Answer of the Elders, p. 53. 

5. John Norton, A Copy of the Letter Returned . . . to Mr. John Dury, p. I. 


sion who were backsliding, "going a great compasse 
to new England to communicat with the Church of 
England/' l 

The advantages of the Non-separating position were 
abundantly demonstrated in 1637 when several Presby- 
terian Puritans wrote from England complaining that 
reports of Separation in Massachusetts were encourag- 
ing Brownists. John Davenport replied in the name of 
his colleagues, acknowledging that there had been some 
matters they had misunderstood at home, and had there 
accepted as " indifferent and lawful"; but "when we 
came to weigh them in the ballance of the Sanctuarie, we 
could not find sufficient warrant in the Word to receive 
them, and establish them here/' 2 In other words, the 
isolation of Massachusetts permitted Congregationalists 
to work out projects they had never been able to realize 
in England, but in so doing they did not play false, they 
did not abandon their membership in the Church. One 
of the brethren's questions, for instance, concerned the 
lawfulness of a set liturgy. In New England ritual had 
become one of those "shadows" against which it was no 
longer necessary to strive. The elders had never been 
called upon to face the issue, because all prayers read 
out of a book had tacitly been dropped overboard the 
moment the ships had got under way: 

As for our judgement concerning the practise of others, who use 
this Liturgie in our native Countrey; we have been alwayes unwilling 
to expresse our minds there against, unlesse we had been necessarily 

1. Burrage, Early English Dissenters, I, 177. 

2. Davenport, An Answer of the Elders, pp. 51-52. 


called thereunto . . . contenting ourselves with . . . these Liberties, 
which wee, by the mercy of God, doe here enjoy. 1 

Thus by remaining consistently Non-separatist, Massa- 
chusetts deliberately evaded facing its irreconcilable op- 
position to the Church of England, while it spread its 
pretense to legitimacy before the world as a conclusive 
rebuttal to all accusations of disloyalty. The actualities 
might be what they would; three thousand miles of 
ocean protected the colony from any abuse more serious 
than verbal, which the Massachusetts divines were 
eminently capable of resenting. 2 

This very Non-separatist position was perhaps the 
nub of the colony's famous quarrels with Roger Williams 
and Anne Hutchinson. Williams, from the moment of 
his arrival, was an authentic Separatist, and refused an 
offer from the Boston church, "because I durst not offi- 

1. Ibid., p. 60. 

2. As so often happens with an issue carried to a frontier, this platform con- 
tinued to be preached in Massachusetts long after the world had ceased 
to be overmuch concerned with schism and dissent. In its petrified form 
the tenet of Non-separation can be found in the Magnaha: 

"Jf it now puzzle the reader to reconcile these passages [from 'The 
Humble Request} with the principles declared, the practices followed, and 
the persecutions undergone by these American Reformers, let him know 
that there was more than one distinction, whereof these excellent persons 
were not ignorant. First they were able to distinguish between the 
Church of England as it contained the whole body of the faithful . . . and 
the Church of England, as it was confined unto a certain constitution by 
canons. . . . Again, they were able to distinguish between the Church of 
England, as it kept the true doctrine of the Protestant religion . . . and 
the Church of England as limiting that name unto a certain faction, who, 
together with a discipline very much unscriptural, vigorously prosecuted 
the tripartite plot of Arminianism and conciliation with Rome, in the 
church, and unbounded prerogative in the state. . . . The planters of 
New England were truer sons to the Church of England, than that part 
of the church which . . . banished them into this jurisdiction." (Bk. I, 
chap, v.) 


date to an unseparated people, as, upon examination 
and conference, I found them to be." * When the Salem 
congregation wished to choose him for their teacher, the 
Court wrote to Endecott in surprise that he should 
approve a Separatist. 2 There was no law on the books at 
that time to justify this interference with a church's 
" liberty" of electing officers, 3 but the Non-separating 
policy had to be maintained. Williams eventually gave 
other causes for offense, but his Separatism " provoked 
the Lord to moove the Court to proceed" against him. 4 
The government's action was in part an advertisement 
of its religious position, and Cotton could proudly point 
to Williams's banishment as a sign that New England 
had not renounced the churches of England. 5 In 1636 an 
anonymous correspondent sent Winthrop a letter of 
complaint, and in an extensive list of the colony's mis- 
deeds could find but one bright spot: "Your disclay- 
ming of Mr. Williams' opinions & your dealing with 
him soe as we heare you did, took off much preiudice 
from you with vs." 6 

English reactions were once more an important factor 
in determining the government's policy toward the An- 
tinomians. Reports of the crisis spread rapidly, encour- 
aged by those who were convinced that the colony was 
in reality schismatical and were only too eager to behold 
it go the way of all Separation. Stansby wrote in April, 

1. Williams, "Letters," Pub. Narragansctt Club, vi, 356. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 61. 

3. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, I, 266. 

4. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 75. 

5. Cotton, A Copy of a Letter (1641), sig. A2. 

6. Mass. Hist. Soc. y Coll., Series 4, vi, 445. 


1637, " I am sory much for your diuisions, we heare great 
speche of them, & I ame sure that they dant many wise, 
faythfull Christians & men of ability from comeing. 
. . ." ' By distinguishing between two kinds of ministers, 
Anne Hutchinson offered grounds for a new Separation, 
wherefore the Court took particular pains to list this 
aspect of her heresy as one of the reasons for her sen- 

The servants of God, who are come over into New England, do 
not think themselves more spirituall then others of their brethren 
whom they have left behind, nor that they can or doe hold forth the 
Lord Jesus Christ in their ministry more truly then he was held 
forth in England. 2 

As soon as Mrs. Hutchinson and Wheelwright had been 
banished, an account of the proceedings was "sent into 
England to be published there/* 3 In order to maintain 
its case before the world, Massachusetts had to extermi- 
nate Antinomianism, and do so quickly and effectively. 
Behind the bulwark of Non-separation Massachu- 
setts theologians brought the Congregational system 
into working order. They proceeded upon the funda- 
mental assumption of the whole Puritan agitation, that 
the Bible was a complete practical guide. Their favorite 
textbook, Ames's Medulla, informed them that Scripture 
was "not a partiall, but a perfect rule of Faith, and 
manners/' that nothing in the Church depended in any 
way upon mere human tradition. 4 Means of worship, 
Bradshaw had written, "ought evidently to be pre- 

1. Ibid.^ Series 4, vn, 12. 

2. Antinomianism in Massachusetts Bay (ed. Charles Francis Adams, Prince 
Society), p. 178. 3- Winthrop, Journal, I, 2 4 i. 

4. Ames, 'The Marrow oj Sacred Divinity, p. 150. 


scribed by the word of God, or els ought not to be 
done." x Furthermore, the assumption ran, Scripture 
was self-evident; it needed no light from other sources, 
and every verse admitted of but one interpretation. At 
first, when details of the polity had not yet been worked 
out, the church covenants cautiously bound the mem- 
bers merely to walk in the ways of the Gospel and " in all 
sincere Conformity to His holy Ordinaunces." 2 All de- 
velopments of the next eighteen years were assumed, 
nevertheless, to have been implied in those covenants, 
and additions or improvements were continually found 
justified by holy ordinances: 

The partes of Church-Government are all of them exactly de- 
scribed in the word of God being parts or means of Instituted wor- 
ship according to the second Commandement. . . . Soe that it is not 
left in the power of men, officers, Churches, or any state in the world, 
to add, diminish, or alter any thing in the least measure therein. 3 

With the completed fabric of their government thus 
authorized in every particular, Cotton declared that 
New Englanders had never discovered such an exception 
'"as might give us just ground to scruple it"; 4 and 
though he modestly declined the imputation of perfec- 
tion he still was certain the New England Way was the 
nearest thing possible to what would be set up "if the 
Lord Jesus were here himselfe in person/' 5 

To such a conception of church polity any idea of tol- 
eration was necessarily foreign. There would be no occa- 

1. Bradshaw, English Puritanisme, p. 4. 

2. Covenant of Charlestown-Boston Church, July 30, 1630, Walker, Creeds 
and Platforms, p. 131. 

3. "Cambridge Platform" (1648), chap, i, par. 3, Walker, op. cit. 

4. Cotton, Of the Holiness of Church-Members , p. 30. 

5. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 237. 


sion for our insisting upon this point were it not for the 
innumerable comments upon the " bigotry" of Massa- 
chusetts Puritans. We have seen that for over half a 
century the Puritan party had been heroically striving 
for an absolute uniformity. The Massachusetts Bay 
Company had exhibited its sentiments before leaving 
England by instructing Endecott to maintain religious 
conformity even in the frontier outpost of Salem: 

Because it is often found that some busie persons (led more by 
their will then any good warrant out of Gods word) take opportunitie 
of moving needless questions to stirr vp strife, and by that meanes to 
begett a question, and bring men to declare some different judgment 
(most commonly in things indifferent) from which small beginnings 
great mischiefs haue followed, wee pray yow and the rest of the 
councell, that if any such disputes shall happen among yow, that 
yow suppress them, and bee carefull to maintaine peace and vnitie. 1 

When the ministers had at last erected the consecrated 
system, for them to admit contradiction would have 
been to confess they had not reformed according to the 
Word of God. " A strong motive*' to the colonization, 
declared the historian Edward Johnson, had been "the 
great enmity betweene that one truth as it is in Jesus'* 
and any other doctrine whatsoever; truth could not 
stand with falsehood "in one Common-wealth long to- 
gether, as sixteene hundred yeares experience will 
testifie." 2 Therefore, since the New England Way was 
derived " from that patterne of wholesome words written 
in the Scriptures, Gods good spirit opening our eyes to 
see it," 3 New Englanders were compelled to pronounce 

1. Massachusetts Records , I, 394. 

2. Johnson, The Wonder Working Providences, p. 12. 

3. Weld, An Answer toW. R..V.U. 


all their foes so many heretics. When English Puritans 
asked if a body of Presbyterians might be allowed to 
practise their way in Massachusetts, Richard Mather, 
speaking for all the elders, replied that if "the Disci- 
pline appointed by Jesus Christ for his Churches is not 
arbitrary/* but is one and the same for all churches, and 
if that polity " which we here practice, be (as we are per- 
swaded of it) the same which Christ hath appointed, and 
therefore unalterable/* then "we see not how another 
can be lawfull; and therefore if a company of people 
shall come hither, and here set up and practise another, 
we pray you thinke not much, if we cannot promise to 
approve of them/* x 

But the colony's determination to maintain uniform- 
ity was more than a theological matter. Separatist com- 
munities in Holland had horrified the Protestant world 
by their squabbles, and one of their most ardent leaders 
had sadly confessed that "the Saincts are subject, (if 
they be not wary, and haue their wits exercised to dis- 
cerne good and evill) to be caried about with divers and 
* strange doctrines; to fall into errors, heresies, & idola- 
tries. " 2 The Massachusetts experiment would have 
been shattered had the centrifugal forces of Protestant- 
ism broken loose. How, Cotton rhetorically queried, 
could dissenters be tolerated in a commonwealth "if 
their worship and Consciences incite them to Civill 
offences?'* 3 The Reformation knew of no instance 
where the existence of divergent opinions in one com- 

1. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 83. 

2. Ainsworth, The Communion of Saincts, p. 329. 

3. Cotton, The Eloudy Tenent W ashed , p. 50. 


munity had not led to "Civill offences/' To tolerate 
many religions in a state, declared a committee of minis- 
ters in 1635, would not only provoke God and destroy 
the peace of the churches, "but also dissolve the con- 
tinuity of the State/' * And the experience of the colony 
with the Hutchinson faction only confirmed that im- 

To the leaders of the colony the Antinomian heresy 
was simply a challenge to live up to their professions. 
The heresy itself was an old, old story. As Hugh Peter 
thundered at young Harry Vane, the policies of the dis- 
senters were those which "both in the Low Countries 
and here" had ever been the "principal causes of new 
opinions/' 2 At the beginning of the fracas Wilson made 
a sad speech before the General Court on "the inevita- 
ble danger of separation, if these differences and aliena- 
tions among brethren were not speedily remedied/' 3 and 
the Court itself ordered the opposition disarmed because 
they feared that the Antinomians "as others in Ger- 
many, in former times, may, vpon some revelation, 
make some suddaine irruption vpon those that differ 
from them in iudgment/' 4 Anne Hutchinson con- 
demned herself when she publicly acknowledged that 
she believed her directions came to her "by an immedi- 
ate revelation"; she thus set herself down as a clear in- 
stance of a recognized heresy which Protestantism had 
agreed in condemning for over a century. "It is the 

1. Quoted in Williams, The Eloudy Tenent of Persecution, ed. Samuel L. 
Caidwell, Pub. Narraganseit Club, in, 278. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 204. 

3. Ibid.,?. 204. 

4. Massachusetts Records , I, 21 1. 


most desperate enthusiasm in the world, for nothing but 
a word comes to her mind, and then an application is 
made which is nothing to the purpose and this is her 
revelations/' x Any orthodox Protestant community 
would have looked upon her as Massachusetts did, and 
have disposed of her in pure self-defense. 

All the colony's preconceptions were substantiated by 
the social upheaval the business seemed to threaten. 
Mistress Hutchinson, the Court declared, 

hath manifested that . . . she walked by such a rule as cannot stand 
with the peace of any State; for such bottomlesse revelations ... if 
they be allowed in one thing, must be admitted a rule in all things: 
for they being above reason and Scripture, they are not subject to 
control!. 2 

That this was not a baseless apprehension had been 
shown when the men of Boston refused at a critical 
moment to go to the Pequod war because their chaplain, 
John Wilson, was under a "covenant of works." It is no 
wonder Winthrop answered Anne's charge that the 
ministers alone were persecuting her by declaring, "It is 
' not their cause, but the cause of the whole country," 3 
or that he justified the government's measures before 
the Boston congregation, because " those brethren were 
so divided from the rest of the country in their judgment 
and practice, as it could not stand with the public peace, 
that they should continue amongst us." 4 

The resemblance of this tempest in a teapot to the 
greater storms of Europe seemed to become unmistak- 

1. Antinomianism in Massachusetts Bay, pp. 269, 275. 

2. Ibid., p. 177. 

3. Ibid.> p. 256. 

4. Winthrop, Journal \ I, 257. 


able when the emotional reactions on both sides outran 
the doctrinal disagreements. Cotton and Shepard de- 
fined their differences with Wheelwright so narrowly that 
" except men of good understanding, and such as knew 
the bottom of the tenets of those of the other party, few 
could see where the difference was/' z During the con- 
troversy "it began to be as common here to distinguish 
between men, by being under a covenant of grace or a 
covenant of works, as in other countries between Protes- 
tants and papists/' 2 Exactly the same results as had 
followed "in other countries " were reproduced in minia- 
ture in Massachusetts: "Upon these public occasions, 
other opinions brake out publicly in the church of 
Boston . . . and others spread more secretly. " 3 When, 
therefore, the orthodox party arose in their might and 
banished the Hutchinson crowd, they not only exiled a 
transcendental dame, but, according to their lights, 
saved the Reformation. They preserved in at least one 
corner of the world a discipline derived out of the Word, 
and they proved it altogether capable of serving as a 
basis for national uniformity. 

The theory upon which the New England churches 
dealt with dissenters resulted logically from their regard 
for the Bible. So obvious were the teachings of Scrip- 
ture averred to be that anyone who did not embrace 
them, particularly after a godly minister had consulted 
with him, must, ipso facto, be perverse. Once more 
Ames was the master: 

Such an one is to be accounted stubborn, as when the truth is not 
onely manifestly revealed in Scripture, but is also sufficiently pro- 

i. Ibid.,?. 217. 2. 7^W.,p. 209. 3. Ibid.,?. 206. 


pounded, and manifested unto him, yet doth so adhere to his errour, 
that he either opposeth himselfe to the plaine Scripture, and will not 
through the naughtinesse of his mind perceive the sence of it, for he 
is obstinate which is not ready to captivate all his understanding and 
reason unto Scripture. 1 

This machinery of conviction was transported intact 
to America. "We have meanes to preserve the Churches 
in unitie and verity/* boasted Richard Mather: "First, 
the holy Scriptures, which are a perfect rule for Doc- 
trine and practise .... Secondly, the Ministery ap- 
pointed by Christ." 2 Cotton defined "persecution" as 
"the affliction of any for their Righteousnesse sake," 3 
and he held that it was unlawful to act against any "for 
conscience sake rightly informed." 4 But the funda- 
mentals of religion were so clear that a man could not 
help perceiving them when they were pointed out to 
him. "After once or twice Admonition, the Heretick 
cannot but be convinced in his owne Conscience." 5 If, 
nevertheless, he persisted in his fault, then it was not out 
of conscience, " but against his Conscience ... so that if 
such a man after such Admonition, shall still persist in 
the Error of his way, and be therefore punished, He is 
not persecuted for cause of Conscience, but for sinning 
against his Conscience." 6 This sort of persecution was 
not only justifiable, it was even merciful, for it took into 
consideration the "many scores or hundreds of the 
soules of such, as will be infected and destroyed by the 

1. Conscience with the Power and Cases thero/ y bk. iv, p. 10. 

2. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 62. 

3. "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 32. 

4. Cotton, 'The Controversie Concerning Liberty of Conscience y p. 7. 

5. Cotton, 'The Bloudy Tenenf Washed, p. 29. 

6. //</., pp. 26-27. 


toleration of the other/* x Upon this theory heretics in 
Massachusetts were invariably cross-examined; shown 
the error of their ways, found Ci stubborn/' and censured 
accordingly. Williams had not been afflicted for his 
righteousness, but for " that which is left of old Adam" 
in him. 2 The modern rejoinder would be that Cotton, 
the agent of affliction, also determined what constituted 
"old Adam/* but Cotton considered such a retort irrel- 
evant. The determination was not his but the Lord's. 
"As for New England" Shepard announced, "we never 
banished any for their consciences, but for sinning 
against conscience, after due meanes of conviction, or 
some other wickednesse which they had no conscience to 
plead for/' 3 

These observations make quite comprehensible a fact 
which critics have often supposed a gross inconsistency 
in the conduct of the clergy. There was, after all, noth- 
ing amiss in the persecuted of England becoming the 
persecutors of New England. The Puritans should never 
have been repressed, not, however, because repression 
itself was wrong, but because Puritans, "though they 
consented not to the State-Government of the Church; 
yet neither did they tumultuously and seditiously resist 
it/' 4 They had not separated, they had not taught that 
it was unlawful for magistrates to pursue "apostate se- 
ducers" with just revenge. Now that they at last were 
" sitting at Helme/' what were the clergy teaching which 

1. 7&W.,p. 35. 

2. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," pp. 27-28. 

3. Shepard, New England* Lamentation for Old Englands present errors 

(1645), P- 3- 

4. Cotton, The Bloudy Tencnt Washed, p. 137. 


they had not themselves allowed when they " were under 
the Hatches"? 

What we measure out to others, wee should never thinke it hard 
measure to have the same returned to our selves in the like case, 
Onely this measure we desire of all hands to be kept . . . that the 
Righteous should not be as the wicked: nor that Truth, and Fi- 
delity, should suffer as Heresie and Apostacy. 1 

If, Weld said, the New England Way were simply "our 
way " and not Christ's, then forcible measures " were our 
great sinne and (in part) the same with the Prelates of 
late"; but since the Way was manifestly divine, its con- 
duct was none other than what "Christ himselfe would 
doe if in our places." 2 

During the weary years in which Puritans and Sepa- 
ratists had labored to convince the English nation that 
the divine will should prevail, they had been compelled 
to place a mighty emphasis upon the conception of a 
fundamental law. All would-be reformers had agreed 
that the Church should be required to show biblical 
authorization for every act. In the period of its incuba- 
tion Congregationalism became thoroughly imbued with 
this legalistic character. Consequently churches in New 
England were assumed from the beginning to have not 
only a structure divinely ordained, but a government 
continually regulated by a written and unamendable 
constitution. Christ was the sole source of ecclesiastical 
legislation, and he had long ago published all the stat- 
utes Christians would ever find necessary. Churches 
possessed at best merely a " ministerial" or " stewardly " 

1. Ibid., p. 170. 

2. Weld, An Answer to W. R. y p. 13. 


power, given them by commission, permitting them 
"onely to publish and execute his Laws and Ordinances, 
and to see them observed/' l Ministers, Ames had 
taught, could not "propound or doe any thing in the 
Church which they have not prescribed to them in the 
Scriptures/' 2 It was not within the churches' power, 
said Cotton, to perform any act "of their own head, but 
to receive all as from the hand of Christ, and to dispense 
all according to the will of Christ revealed in his Word." 3 
The Congregational structure was founded upon the 
principle that church policies were never to be deter- 
mined by any human considerations, but by the basic 
law, " by rules from the word of Christ, whose will, (and 
not the will either of the Major, or Minor part of men) is 
the onely rule and Law for Churches." 4 

Into this philosophy of a fundamental ecclesiastical 
constitution Congregationalism introduced a peculiarly 
complicating element. The essence of a Congregational 
organization was the voluntary consociation of a frater- 
nity. All the superstructure sacraments, ministry, 
government was to be created by that body after the 
covenant had been sworn; such things were "appurte- 
nances and dependants of the true Visible Church," 
but a church was " the body, the foundation, or the sub- 
ject whereon they depend, and where in they all consist, 
and by vertue of whose authoritie they all are & have 
their true being." 5 Obviously, therefore, the govern- 

i. Cotton, The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 30. 
i. The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, p. 154- 

3. The True Constitution of a particular visible Church^ p. 9. 

4. Richard Mather, Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, 
p. 60. 5. Jacob, The Divine Beginning, sig. Di. 


ment of a church was not only bound to a basic scrip- 
tural constitution,, but it was perpetually subject to the 
will of the society from which it sprang. This doctrine, 
no less than the other, was carried to New England. 
Hooker, controverting Presbyterian attacks upon the 
church covenant, took especial pains to point out that 
"Mutuall covenanting and confoederation of the Saints 
in the fellowship of the faith according to the order of 
the Gospel, is that which gives constitution and being to 
a visible Church. " r In such a philosophy one thing at 
least seemed certain, that the common members of the 
church possessed a decided share in the government, a 
share allowed by neither Anglicanism nor Presbyterian- 
ism. Cotton willingly admitted as much. The Apostle 
Peter, he held, was given church power by Christ be- 
cause he professed his faith in the name of the church: 

How can it stand either with Faith or Reason, That a Church of 
Believers professing the same Faith with Peter^ shall receive no part 
of Church-power at all, in respect of their profession of the Faith, 
but only in respect of their Officers that preach the Faith? 3 

The question then remained in what this power of the 
multitude consisted? What authority did the members 
acquire by virtue of their being themselves the raison 
d'etre of the church? Clearly they had a power to select 
their officers. It could be only by the voluntary subjec- 
tion of those who had a choice of rulers that a person 
chosen stood possessed of rule and authority over them. 
Once appointed, the officers had to remain in some 
fashion responsible to the congregation. They could not, 

1. Survey, pt. I, 46. 

2. The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. n, p. 35. 


for instance, excommunicate one of their own constitu- 
ents without first proving to the whole number that he 
held such and such an opinion and that this opinion was 
"an errour by the word of God, and that it deserveth 
such a Censure, before they doe proceed against him/' l 
If the ministers did not live up to the terms upon which 
they were elected, if they did not abide by the laws of 
Christ, then, Robinson had preached, the church, even 
"the meanest member therof," was not bound to sub- 
mit; the clergy were not to be obeyed " for the authority 
of the commander, but for the reason of the command- 
ment, which the ministers are also bound in duty to 
manifest, and approve unto the consciences of them over 
whom they are set." 2 Finally, if officers were elected by 
the acclamation of the fraternity, then they were cen- 
surable by it if they failed in their office. "The Congre- 
gation that chose them freely, hath as free power to 
depose them, and to place others in their room/* 3 This 
theory was dutifully echoed in Massachusetts: the 
ministers, said Richard Mather, could not do "any 
thing in their places, which the word of Christ . . . com- 
mandeth not . . . nor ought the Church to consent unto 
them, if they should." 4 

The inescapable conclusion seemed to be that since 
the people by their covenant had created the organiza- 
tion, in the final analysis the people were to decide 
whether any act of the society fell within the scope of 
the covenant. To this extent Congregational philosophy 

1. Bradshaw, English Puntanisme, p. 25 

2. Robinson, Works, in, 61. 

3. Bradshaw, Several Treatises, p. 99. 

4. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discussed, p. 58. 


involved a step in the direction of what we today call 
democracy. But such praise as we might bestow upon 
seventeenth-century Congregationalists on the score of 
their democracy would assuredly be considered by them 
gratuitous. The age was no admirer of government by 
the people; Puritans had constantly demonstrated their 
abhorrence of it, and Congregationalists, whether 
Separatist or Non-separatist, had done their best to 
ward off the insidious aspersion of equalitarian leanings. 
They had found their rebuttal in a characteristic Refor- 
mation idea. When Calvin discussed the possible kinds 
of government, he distinguished monarchy, aristocracy, 
and democracy; and he concluded that a mixture of the 
last two or even of all three was the ideal form for this 
world. The notion had been glibly repeated throughout 
the sixteenth century. When, therefore, Congregation- 
alists admitted a certain democracy into their polity, 
they hastened to explain that it was only one element in 
the total make-up. The people, they had to admit, were 
the source of the clergy's commission, but the process of 
'government undoubtedly was not democratic, it was 
"mixed." As Ames phrased it: 

The forme of this polity is altogether monarchicall in respect of 
Christ, the head and King; but as touching the visible and vicarious 
administration, it is of a mixt nature, partly as it were aristocraticall, 
and partly as it were democraticall. 1 

Robinson and the Separatists advanced the same con- 
ception: " In respect of Him, the Head, it is a monarchy; 
in respect of the eldership, an aristocracy; in respect of 

i. Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity , p. 145. 


the body, a popular state/' z However radical the 
Separatists were in some respects their social philosophy 
was not unconventional. <4 So then for popular govern- 
ment" declared Ainsworth, "we hold it not, we approue 
it not, for if the multitude gouern, then who shalbe 
gouerned?" 2 

As long as Congregationalism remained the creed of 
embattled minorities or of persecuted Separatists, these 
rather generalized declarations did them yeoman's serv- 
ice; the one group were absorbed too much in demon- 
strating their political orthodoxy by not separating, and 
the other too much in proving theirs even though they 
had separated, for either of them to work out a specific 
application of their "mixed" government. As far as 
they went, their qualification of the polity's democratic 
aspects simply meant stressing the powers of the elders, 
both spiritual and lay. The whole church, congregation 
and ministry alike, was bound by the absolute and ar- 
bitrary law of the Bible; but the elders were the students 
and interpreters of the law, and in ordinary practice they 
were to guide the congregation. Though a brotherhood 
might choose to follow Christ, they needed to have 
Christ expounded to them. Robert Browne had at first 
intended matters of rule to be determined by the whole 
body of saints, but his successors, more experienced in 
the workings of the system, exalted the tutelary guid- 
ance of the elders as a necessary check upon an irre- 
sponsible exercise of the congregation's liberty. 3 Robin- 

1. Robinson, Works , n, 140. 

2. Ainsworth, Counterpoyson, p. 103. 

3. Dexter, Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, p. 222; 
Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 31; Burrage, Early English Dissenters, 


son's exposition of the machinery of Congregational 
government reveals the extent to which the prophets 
were employing every device in their power to counter- 
act its fundamental democratic principle: 

Now lest any should take occasion to conceive, that we either 
exercise amongst ourselves, or would thrust upon others, any popu- 
lar, or democratical church government, may it please the Christian 
reader to make estimate of both our judgment and practise. . . . 

First, We believe, that the external government under Christ . . . 
is plainly aristocratical, and to be administered by some choice men, 
although the state, which many unskilfully confound with the 
government, be after a sort popular and democratical. By this it 
appertains to the people freely to vote in elections and judgments of 
the church. In respect of the other, we make account it behoves the 
elders to govern the people, even in their voting, in just liberty, given 
by Christ whatsoever. Let the elders publicly propound, and order 
all things in the church ... let the people of faith give their assent 
to their elders holy and lawful administration. 1 

Non-separating Congregationalists, being even more 
conservatively minded, aggravated this emphasis. Ac- 
cording to J acob, the church, once organized, was <4 to be 
informed, directed, and guided by the Pastor chiefly, 
and also by the grave assistant Elders. " 2 He intended 
that the members should be the source of elections and 
censures, but they were ordinarily to avoid acting upon 
their own initiative, striving rather <4 freely to consent to 
their Guides preparing & directing every matter." 3 

The crucial point in the system was excommunication. 
Whoever controlled that weapon would rule the church. 

I, 130; Henry W. Clark, A History oj English Nonconformity, I, 198. 

1. Robinson, 11'orks^ in, 42-43. 

2. Jacob, The Divine Beginning^ sig. A3 verso. 

3. Burrage, op. cit. y n, 160. 


At first sight it would seem to have been the congrega- 
tion's, for if the society was created by compact, then 
the signers of the compact should have the ultimate 
word about admitting or expelling members. This, the 
theorists admitted, was true; but, they continued, re- 
jections had to be determined not by the whim of the 
crowd, but by concrete laws. Therefore those who were 
skilled in the laws, the ministers, were to direct the trial 
and make clear to the congregation how it should exer- 
cise its God-given power. The "right and power " of 
censure belongs to the brotherhood, said Ames, but the 
" administration " belongs to the elders. 1 The officers 
should consult together, "apart from the People/' 
agreed Jacob, should cross-examine the accused, and 
prepare the case against him, "in such sort that the 
People may not neede to do ought afterward but only 
Consent with them." 2 The ideal of the discipline was 
compared by Robinson to a session of Assize, where the 
whole procedure is dictated by the law of the land, 
where, nevertheless, the jury's "power and sentence is 
of such force, as that the Lord Chief Justice himself and 
all the Bench with him, cannot proceed agaynst it," yet 
where " the Bench governeth the whole action, and the 
Jury is by them, according to law, to be governed." 3 By 
some such counterbalancing of the governors and gov- 
erned, through their mutual subjection to an explicit 
and all-sufficient code, Congregationalism had been at- 
tempting to work out a discipline in which the pre- 

i. Ames, Conscience^ bk. iv, pp. 88-89. 
1. Jacob, Reasons taken out of Gods Word, p. 28. 

3. Quoted in Ainsworth, An Animadversion to Mr. Richard Clyftons Adver- 
tisement , p. IIJ. 


scriptions of Christ could be realized while the social 
predilections of the age would at the same time be 

When the discipline was carried to America, it was 
put immediately to uses exactly opposite to those it had 
served in England. Instead of being the shield of an 
attacking party, it suddenly became the platform of a 
ruling oligarchy; instead of being invoked to delimit the 
sway of kings and prelates, it was now employed to rule 
a populace. Whereas the supporters of the polity had 
formerly stifled its democratic tendencies to preserve 
their respectability, they now were compelled to chain 
them to maintain their power. Consequently, though 
they carried over the idea of limitation of church officers 
by the fundamental law of God and by the corporate 
will of the society, they now had to make sure that such 
limitation would not prevent the ministers from holding 
the throttle. In England Congregationalists had con- 
fidently predicted that the loyalty of Christian congre- 
gations would keep them obedient to the law as ex- 
pounded by the elders; confronted with the problem of 
ruling an actual and often cantankerous crowd of erst- 
while dissenters, they realized this obedience had to be 
insured by more potent guarantees. If the clergy failed 
to control the internal affairs of their churches, then 
for all their attempts to maintain Non-separation and 
unity, their parishes would inevitably drift apart, 
divergences and schisms appear, and popular frenzies 
break out. 

The New England divines, therefore, went over the 
whole framework of Congregational thought, tightening 


up the bolts of cohesion. They continued to characterize 
the government as mixed, or, as Davenport called it, 
"Aristocratico-Democratical." The essence of a church 
was still the covenant of the fellowship, and a church 
existed as soon as the covenant was taken, whether any 
officers were elected or not. Yet, the apologists has- 
tened to add, a church without officers was not complete, 
and as soon as the compact was made, the members had 
no choice but to proceed to an election. This necessity, 
the Cambridge Platform declared, was by order of Christ 
"to continue to the end of the world, and for the per- 
fecting of all the Saints." J Thus Cotton said that while 
he granted a covenanted brotherhood was essentially a 
church, still he himself never thought of a "particular 
church" without intending "a Congregation of Be- 
lievers furnished with Officers." He insisted that the 
elders were given to the church, "not as meer adjuncts 
given to a Subject, but as Integral parts given to the 
whole Body of the Church, for completing the integrity 
and perfection of it." 2 Though a church properly began 
with the people, and though a ministry could not exist 
until the people had themselves ordained it, yet newly 
associated members could not linger to congratulate 
each other upon the power they had acquired, but im- 
mediately must subject themselves to the rule of proper 
superiors. They had a freedom as to whom they should 
choose, but no freedom to refrain from choosing at all. 3 

1. Chap, vi, pars. 1-2, in Walker, Creeds and Platforms. 

2. The IV ay of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. 1 1, p. 20. 

3. Even this freedom was seriously qualified by the requirement that the 
man chosen should possess a discernible "inner call"; the congregation, 
said Cotton, "cannot choose or ordaine whom they please, but whom they 


Since a minister's election to office was dependent 
upon a congregation's call, to that extent he might still 
be said to derive his rank from the constituency. But 
the constituency had not created the office, and could 
not designate to an officer what his powers should and 
should not be; those were already determined by an al- 
together independent authority, by the Bible. This was 
a matter which Hooker warns us is "to be understood 
with a grain of salt, and requires a wise and wary ex- 
plication." l The power of government might be said to 
be in the brotherhood "in that they design the persons 
unto office, who only are to act, or to exercise this 
power," 2 but not in that they invented the office itself. 
That was " the immediate institution of Christ, the gifts 
and power belonging thereto are from Christ immedi- 
ately." The congregation could not "inlarge or straiten 
the limits of his office whom they do elect or ordaine, but 
as the Lord hath prescribed." 3 The minister's outward 
call was essentially "from Christ," although "by his 
Church"; and his election, therefore, no more made him 
" the servant of the Church, then a Captain (by leave 
of the Generall) chosen by the Band of Souldiers is the 
servant of his Band." 4 Christ alone bestowed upon in- 
dividuals the graces and abilities which qualified them 

see the Lord lesus hath prepared and fitted for them " (The Way of the 
Churches of Christ in New England ', p. 44). There are numerous instances 
of the authorities prohibiting the election of a minister because they felt 
his spiritual summons was faulty; the debarring of Williams at Salem, 
already referred to, was but the first instance of the sort. 

i. Hooker, Survey, pt. i, 187. 

1. Cambridge Platform, chap, v, par. 2. 

3. Cotton, The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, p. 44. 

4. Shepard and Allin, A Defence of the Answer, p. 130. 


as ministers, and he alone, " out of his supreme and regal 
power . . . appoints the work, laies out the compasse 
thereof, the manner of dispensing, and the order and 
bounds of their dispensation." The church controlled 
the gateway to the office, but not the office, and its vol- 
untary subjection permitted persons to enter upon the 
office, "to put forth their abilities and Ministerial au- 
thority over such a people." Thus congregations could 
ordain pastors, although the powers of the office never 
passed through their hands; they might "give a call and 
power to such and such to be Pastors, and yet them- 
selves not Pastors." z There is no analogy between this 
system and American constitutional theory; the com- 
ponent elements of the society did not draw up the 
fundamental law or delegate to the government any 
sovereignty they originally held. On the contrary, an 
absolute monarch had laid down the law arbitrarily, and 
had chosen to formulate two kinds of prerogatives, each 
of which was to be traced directly to him and not one 
to the other. The congregations retained no "residual 
powers"; their existence simply was prerequisite to the 
ministers' opportunity "to do that which they them- 
selves cannot do." 2 Both parties had certain prescribed 
obligations to fulfill, and neither of them could overstep 
its limits. Elders could come into being only by the 
call of a particular congregation, because it was physi- 
cally impossible for a church to exist until the elect had 
gathered in one place. "Beleevers that are as scattered 
stones, and are not seated in a visible Church or Cor- 

1. Hooker, Survey, pt. I, pp. 190-191. 

2. Ibid.^. 187. 


poration, as setled in the wall/' could not be possessed 
of any coherent power. 1 Yet the primary condition of 
their becoming seated in a corporation was that they 
formally enslave their will to the revealed Word of 
God, and the revealed Word required them to nominate 
a fitting man upon whom Christ and not themselves 
should bestow the authority they were to obey. 

Thus when the internal government of a Congrega- 
tional church was perfected in New England, the osten- 
sible result was a peculiar system of balanced, inter- 
locking, and yet independent authorities. The elders 
administered and the congregations rendered judg- 
ments, each according to a set of rules devised for those 
particular functions: " "The power oj judgement and 
power of office are apparently distinct and different one 
from another." 2 The assumption was that the two were 
complementary; the elders, said Hooker, 

are superior to the Fraternity in regard of Office ', Rule, Act^ and Ex- 
erase; which is proper only to them, and not to the Fraternity. The 
people or Church are superior to the Elders in point of censure; each 
have their full scope in their own sphere and compasse, without the 
prejudice of the other. 3 

Cotton corroborated Hooker: 

The Gospel alloweth no Church authority (or rule properly so 
called) to the Brethren, hut reserveth that wholly to the Elders; and 
yet preventeth the tyrannic and oligarchy, and exorbitancy of the 
Elders, by the large and firm establishment of the liberties of the 
Brethren. 4 

1. Ibid., p. 20 j. 

2. Ibid., pt. in, p. 45. 

3 . Ibid. , pt. i , pp. 1 90- 191. 

4. The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 12. 


Shepard and Allin declared that if the rules were 
properly distinguished, 

a dim sight may easily perceive how the execution of the Keys by 
the officers authoritatively may stand with the liberties of the people 
in their places obedientially following and concurring with their 
guides. 1 

The Cambridge Platform epitomized the theory by de- 
claring that the power of the elders and the privileges of 
the brethren did not prejudice each other, but "may 
sweetly agree together"; hence all ecclesiastical conduct 
was the expression of a divine partnership, proceeding 
"after the manner of a mixt administration, so as no 
church act can be consummated, or perfected without 
the consent of both." 2 

This theory of dual authorities cooperating volun- 
tarily in the advancement of Christ's kingdom was a 
triumph of ingenuity. It preserved the genuine Chris- 
tian virtues that Puritanism opposed to the formalism of 
the Establishment, and projected a church system which 
followed the instructions of Christ, admitting members 
only upon profession of their faith and allowing them as 
Christians to exercise the privileges of the elect. At the 
same time, the theory provided a check upon human 
tendencies to go astray, a sure-fire method for maintain- 
ing law and order. On paper it served the purpose for 
which it was evolved: it proved that Congregationalism 
was not unduly democratic. "Tumultuous disorder" 
clearly was impossible where " the multitude of Brethren 
are governed by the BUders" and where "not the will of 

1. A Defence oj the Answer^ p. 131. 

2. Chap, x, pars. 10-11. 


each man beareth sway, but the voice of Christ alone is 
heard/* * But when the theory was put into practice it 
was not long in betraying an all-important catch. In 
spite of the delicate balancing of coordinate realms of 
activity, the really crucial power was in the hands of the 
elders. The reason, once more, was the fundamental 
assumption of the whole enterprise, that the discipline 
was derived out of the Word. For the ministers were the 
interpreters of the Word. Individual members were no 
match for those who devoted their days and nights to 
exegesis. As official expounders of the law, the elders 
took the lead in every action and laid down the princi- 
ples upon which the congregation was to make its de- 
cisions. They were, in effect, the interpreters of the very 
rules by which they were supposed to be limited, so that 
it was only in flagrant cases that the democracy had 
much chance of disciplining them. "It was generally 
desired/' at the Synod of 1643, "that the exercitium of 
the Churches power might onely be in the Eldership in 
each particular Church, unless their sinnes be apparent 
in their worke." 2 If a single member objected, the elders 
could easily go through the ceremony of " confuting " 
him; if he persisted he was "partial" and "factious/' 
and "the Church ought to deale with such an one, for 
not consenting/' else "they shall all be guilty of the 
sinfull dissent of such an one." 3 The elders interviewed 
candidates and determined their fitness for member- 
ship; though the whole church finally voted upon the 

1 . Cotton, 'The Way of the Church of Christ in New England \ p. 100. 

2. A Reply of two of the Brethren to A. S. (1644), p. 8. 

3. Richard Mather, Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed> 
p. 58; Dexter, op. cit. y p. 429. 


applicants, the officers were " to shew the Church the 
rule on which the Church is to receive them, and them- 
selves are ready to admit them/' 1 a privilege which gave 
the officers a working control over the make-up of the 
organization. In the matter of censures they first pre- 
pared the indictment against an accused and demon- 
strated the rule by which he should be dealt with, so 
that the congregation's function as "the supream Tri- 
bunal in poynt of judgment " resolved itself in practice 
into a doing of what it was told: 

the peoples discerning and approving the justice of the censure be- 
fore it be administred, ariseth from the Elders former instruction 
and direction of them therein: Whereunto the people give consent, 
in obedience to the will and rule of Christ. 3 

Complaints against members could not be made before 
the church, but only to the elders. In fact, all business 
upon which the whole body had to vote was prepared 
beforehand by the officers. 3 We "bring as few matters 
as possible, into the Assembly/' declared Weld, "rather 
labouring to take all things up in private, and then make 
as short work in publique, (when they must needs come 
there) as may be/' 4 This meant, of course, that the con- 
gregation's decision was always dependent upon the way 
evidence was submitted to it; Roger Williams, for in- 
stance, accused the elders in Boston of holding back 
public letters from the body of the church. 5 Finally, in 

1. Shepard and Allin, A Defence of the Answer, p. 194. 

2. Cotton, The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven , pp. 14-15. 

3. Hooker, Survey, pt. i, pp. 134, 135; pt. in, p. 36; Lechford, Plain Dealing, 
pp. 20, 31. 

4. An Answer to W. R., p. 41. 

5. Williams, Letters, p. 72. 


the conduct of meetings the elders were moderators, and 
exercised an overwhelming influence both as the wield- 
ers of the gavel and as interpreters of parliamentary 
procedure. They had power "from Christ" to restrain 
"any mans speech, whilest another is speaking; and to 
cut off any mans speech that groweth either impertinent 
or intemperate." x The original intention of Congrega- 
tionalism had been, as Williams expressed it, that an 
apprehension of the mind of Christ be returned "in 
solemn seeking of God's face by the whole Church." 2 In 
the New England Way the "guidance" of the elders 
constantly minimized the congregation's share in the 
search. The Synod of 1637 frowned upon the custom of 
asking questions from the floor after a sermon, 3 so that 
Richard Mather proudly boasted, "A man may now 
live from one end of the year unto another in these Con- 
gregations, & not hear any man open his mouth in such 
kind of asking Questions." 4 The Cambridge Platform 
summarized the development by informing the members 
that they might not 

oppose nor contradict the judgment or sentence of the Elders, with- 
out sufficient & weighty cause, becaus such practices are manifestly 
contrary unto order, & government, & in-lets of disturbance, & tend 
to confusion. 5 

In addition to the powers the elders possessed by 
virtue of their office, they exacted respect and obedience 
from the imponderable influences of their social posi- 

1. Cotton, The Way oj the Churches of Christ in New England, p. 100. 

2. Williams, op. cit., p. 73. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, I, 234. 

4. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 79. 

5. Chap, x, par. 8. 


tion, their learning, and the tradition in which the 
people had been reared. The Middle Ages and the Ref- 
ormation had inculcated the virtues of submission to 
authority so thoroughly that Shepard was conscious of 
no incongruity when he declared that the "liberty" of a 
Congregational people was exercised most appropriately 
" in a way of subjection, and obedience " to their elders. 1 
The supposedly more liberal Hooker, though stressing 
the congregation's right to censure a transgressing elder, 
still salvaged the almost irresistible influence of the 
minister by instructing the people that " they must give 
way while he delivers the mind of Christ out of the 
Gospel, and acts all the affairs of his Kingdome, ac- 
cording to his rule; and as it suits with his mind." 2 
"The work and duty of the people," concluded the 
Cambridge Platform, " is expressed in the phrase of obey- 
ing their Elders, and submitting themselves unto them 
in the Lord." 3 The difference between an elder and a 
member, said Richard Mather, was the difference be- 
tween a steward over a house and one of the house- 
maids. 4 In spite of the fact that the congregation called 
the officers to their position, it could not remain in com- 
mand; a queen, said Cotton, could summon her mari- 
ners and instruct them to carry her to such and such a 
place, but 

they being called by her to such an office, shee must not rule them in 
steering their course, but must submit her selfe to be ruled by them, 

1. Shepard and Allin, op. cit., p. 13. 

2. Hooker, Survey, pt. i, p. 192. 

3. Chap, x, par. 7. 

4. Mather, op. cif., p. 60. 


till they have brought her to her desired Haven. So is the case be- 
tween the Church and her Elders. 1 

The voyage upon which the church had embarked was for 
life, and the latitude and longitude of the destined haven 
had been determined by Christ; consequently, although 
a congregation launched a church, thereafter any at- 
tempt it might make to mount the bridge and displace 
the navigators was mutiny on the high seas of religion. 
The Christian liberty of the common man, which 
had looked so tremendous when preached by Robert 
Browne, had shrunk by the time of the Cambridge Plat- 
form to little more than his liberty to enter a church 
covenant if he could prove he possessed the faith. The 
perfect characterization of the whole system was that of 
Hooker's colleague, Stone, when he described it as "a 
speaking Aristocracy in the face of a silent Democracy." 2 
# * # 

In English Congregationalism there had existed the 
rudiments of another feature which the proponents of 
the system had advanced as an aid to uniformity. 
Synods were permitted as long as they were to be "de- 
liberative and persuasive" rather than " ruling," as long 
as they were to lend advice and counsel but not to im- 
pose decrees upon particular churches by force. Because 
Congregationalists at that time were combating the cen- 
tralized systems of both Presbyterianism and Anglican- 
ism, they took more pains to delimit synods than to de- 
fine them. Yet both Separatists and Non-separatists 

1. The Keyes oj the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 23. 

2. Cotton Mather, Magnalia^ i, 437. 


had dimly perceived their value. A synod's determina- 
tions, said Jacob, "are most expedient and wholesome 
alwayes," * and the Confession of the London-Amster- 
dam church in 1596 declared that though congregations 
should be distinct bodies, "every one as a compact 
Citie in it selfe," they were still "by all meanes conven- 
ient to haue the counsell and help one of another in all 
needfull affayres of the Church." 2 

Once more, when the platform of an English opposi- 
tion became a system of control in New England, the 
emphasis was inevitably shifted. Congregationalists 
had glibly predicted that the instructions of the Bible 
were explicit enough to keep autonomous organizations 
facing in the same direction; but when they at last set up 
a number of such churches, they realized that interpre- 
tations might vary more than they had imagined. Little 
by little they came to rely upon periodic consociations 
of elders from the various churches to make sure that 
they were all continuing in substantial agreement. The 
Bible and their tradition prevented the clergy from ever 
acknowledging that their sessions did more than give 
mutual advice and criticism, but in the close confine- 
ment of a frontier community the agreement of a ma- 
jority acquired practically an irresistible weight. A lone 
dissenter or a single dissenting church would be socially 
almost isolated. The more disagreements appeared, the 
more was the device employed, until by the time of the 
Cambridge Platform its jfunction in the system was for- 
mally recognized. 

1. Reasons taken out of Gods Word^ p. 31. 

2. Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 71. 


The ministers evidently began very early to get to- 
gether for the discussion of matters "of moment"; Wil- 
liams objected to the custom in 1633, fearing it "might 
grow in time to a presbytery or superintendency." The 
ministers at once denied the possibility, and assured 
Williams that they held that "no church or person can 
have power over another church. " x Still, the effective- 
ness of consociation as a means of control had already 
been demonstrated. In July, 1631, a ruling elder at 
Watertown, one Richard Browne, broached the intoler- 
able opinion that the Church of Rome, like the Church 
of England, was "in substance" a true church. Win- 
throp, Dudley, and Nowell visited the town twice; they 
told the congregation that it had to decide first of all in 
what capacity they were appearing, whether as magis- 
trates, or as members of a neighboring church come to 
offer " advice." The church decided in favor of the latter 
role, whereupon the visitors "advised" against Browne, 
and the ultimate resolution of this trouble proved that 
in the voluntary consociation of churches the colony 
possessed a weapon of social pressure all the more effec- 
tive for not being frankly mandatory. 2 Other advan- 
tages of the practice were revealed in 1634, when John 
Eliot criticized the magistrates for making a peace with 
the Pequods "without consent of the people." Cotton, 
Weld, and Hooker were sent to deal with him, that he 
might "be brought to see his error, and heal it by some 
public explanation of his meaning; for the people began 
to take occasion to murmer against us for it." The emi- 

1. Winthrop, Journal, I, 112. 

2. //</., pp. 66,71,83,95. 


nent pillars of society succeeded, by way of " advice/* in 
showing the Apostle to the Indians his " error." 1 
Thenceforward there are numerous evidences of the as- 
sociated ministers being called upon to deal with a 
lengthening list of matters, their survey soon including 
a goodly part of the internal workings of individual 
churches. In March, 1635, several elders went to Saugus 
to iron out difficulties between the minister and his 
flock. 2 People at Lynn, in the next year, attempted to 
found a church, and the elders of the Bay, dubious about 
the orthodoxy of the town, hastened to examine the 
candidates; after two days of investigation, they ap- 
proved the pastor and six members, "but with much 
ado/' 3 The Charlestown church quarrelled with its 
pastor, James; the neighboring elders were summoned, 
decided James was in fault, and "advised" the church 
to dismiss him. 4 Shepard and Mather both paid obei- 
sance to the consociation by inviting representatives 
to the formation of their respective churches. 5 Hugh 
Peter, in dealing with the remnants of the Williams 
faction at Salem, called in other churches for advice, 6 
and he wrote into the revised covenant of the church a 
clause binding it to use the counsel of "our sister 
Churches." 7 Within a decade it had become the estab- 
lished custom of the colony to require the presence of 
neighboring ministers at the covenanting of new organi- 
zations, at the election of all officers, or at the deposi- 

I. Ibid., p. 142. 2. Ibid., p. 148. 

3. I bid., p. 199. 4- Ibid. >?. 176. 

5. /#</., pp. I73* 1 ??- 

6. Ibid., p. 179. 

7. Walker, Creeds and P/atforms, p. 117. 


tion of erring ones, and to refer to outsiders for the 
arbitration of all parish quarrels. 1 

The two great crises in the colony's existence found 
the consociation of churches playing a major role in the 
maintenance of uniformity. Cotton says that he spent 
the summer of 1635 seeking "by word and writing" to 
satisfy Williams's various scruples. 2 In April the as- 
sembled elders heard his objections to the oath, "and 
very clearly confuted" him. 3 When Williams perceived 
the drift of these tactics, he wrote a circular letter to all 
the churches, urging that the magistrates and deputies 
be reproved for a "heinous sin"; 4 it was a foolhardy 
attempt to convert the consociation of churches into a 
weapon against the very power it was designed to sub- 
serve. Cotton at once requested the civil power to for- 
bear until Williams could be dealt with "in a church 
way," and Cotton, Hooker, and others debated with 
him. 5 When he still remained obstinate, the church at 
Boston sent a public admonition to Salem, giving a list 
of Williams's errors and declaring them "confuted." 6 By 
August Williams separated completely from his church; 
Hooker once more disputed with him and demonstrated 
to the satisfaction of everyone but Williams that he was 
wrong. 7 At this point consociation had done its duty 
and cleared the track for the civil government: 

1. Cambridge Platform^ chap, viii, par. 8; chap, x, par. 6; Lechford, Plain 
Dealing^ p. i$; Weld, Answer to IV. R.^ p. 37. 

2. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," p. 76. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, I, 149. 

4. Ibid., p. 154; Cotton, op. cit., pp. 14, 50. 

5. Ibid.) pp. 50, 62; Nathaniel Morton, New England's Memorial (5th edi- 
tion, 1826), p. 153. 

6. Ibid., p. 155. 7. Cotton, op. cit., p. 52. 


But now he having refused to heare both his own Church, and us 
... we have now no more to say in his behalfe, nor hope to prevaile 
for him. Wee have told the Governor, and Magistrates before, that 
if our labour was in vaine, wee could not helpe it, but must sit 
downe. 1 

Mere gatherings of various elders, however, failed 
several times to untangle the Antinomian knot, 2 and at 
last a formal Synod was gathered at Cambridge. The 
immense success of this body made the synod an abid- 
ing resource of American Congregationalism; English 
Independency never enjoyed anything like the same 
opportunity to dominate a community, and therefore 
did not perfect the device of consociation. 3 This Synod 
rendered incalculable service to the establishment of a 
uniform orthodoxy by drawing up a list of eighty-two 
errors, which it declared condemned by the Word of 
God. Many of these were not attributed to Anne and 
her friends, but were recollected from European experi- 
ences with heresies of her type, and were added to serve 
as guides for ferreting out future apostates. 

The various uses of consociation were soon completely 
rationalized. Though a gathering of ministers or a synod 
still could not impose its decrees, yet it could " clear up 
the truth dogmatically," 4 could determine " that which 
is evidently expressed, or infallibly collected out of the 
Word/' As far as any human decisions ever could be, 
the counsels of a Congregational synod were apt to be 

1. Ibid., p. 64. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 196, 203, 210. 

3. Walker, A History of the Congregational Churches in the United States, 
p. 143. 

4. Richard Mather and William Thompson, A Modest & Brotherly Answer 
to Mr. Charles Herle y p. 9. 


"no other then Gods Commands"; they smacked of "a 
Divine Authority which is now by them discovered, and 
in his Name applied to the particulars under hand/' J 
The particulars coming under a synod's hand were un- 
derstood by 1648 rather extensively: an assembly was 
designed, declared the Cambridge Platform, 

to determine controversies of faith, & cases of conscience; to cleare 
from the word holy directions for the holy worship of God, & good 
government of the church; to beare witness against mal-administra- 
tion & Corruption in doctrine or manners in any particular Church, 
& to give directions for the reformation thereof. 2 

Of course, if a synod ruled anything contrary to law, or 
"prejudicial to the intireness of the Churches Power, 
within it self," then the particular church still had a 
theoretical right to resist; 3 on the other hand, if the as- 
sembled churches found a congregation obstinately 
nursing " the Gangreene of Heresie" or " the Leprosie of 
sin/' though they had "no power to deliver them to 
Sathan, yet they have power to withdraw from them, 
the right hand of Fellowship, and no longer to hold them 
in the Communion of Saints, till they approve their Re- 
pentance." 4 Hooker defended this sort of "separation 
or rejection " as being quite different from " excommuni- 
cation," but he was speaking somewhat equivocally, for 
if the procedure did not deliver a congregation to Satan, 
it gave them to something which, for the time being, was 
worse to social ostracism and isolation. Hence Richard 
Mather could advise the Presbyterians of England that 

1. Hooker, Survey, pt. iv, p. 3. 

2. Chap, xvi, par. 4. 

3. Davenport, 'The Power of Congregational Churches, p. 153. 

4. Cotton, The True Constitution of a particular visible Church, p. 13. 


if they would faithfully follow the course of voluntary 
consociation, they would find it an ideal means 

to settle one unanimous consent in the thing, or at least to preserve 
peace in the Church by thedissentors submission to the judgement of 
the Major part, though they see not light sufficient to warrant them 
to act in the businesse. 1 

Cotton attributed the successful career of the New 
England Way largely to the employment of consocia- 

Mutual conference between Godly, ingenuous, and selfe-denying 
Christians is a notable meanes sanctified of God for the instruction 
& edification one of another, till wee all come to be of one minde in 
the Lord. 2 

Consequently, the Cambridge Platform signalized the 
effect upon Congregationalism of eighteen years of suc- 
cessful use of consociation by emphasizing the role of this 
principle far beyond anything that had ever been done 
in European sketches of the polity. It proclaimed the 
moral duty of a church to carry its troubles to the minis- 
ters of other congregations, and stigmatized a refusal to 
do so as "a matter of just offence both to the Lord 
Jesus, & to other churches/' The deliberations of a 
synod were to be received with " reverence and submis- 
sion,'* not only because they were necessarily gathered 
out of the Word, but also "for the power wherby they 
are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed there- 
unto in his word." 3 This was about as far in the direc- 
tion of centralization as Congregationalism could go 
without abandoning its basic premises. In synods the 

1. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 62. 

2. Cotton, The Eloudy Tenent Washed, p. 185. 

3. Cambridge Platform, chap, xv, par. 2; chap, xvi, par. 5. 


New England Way found an instrument for "the con- 
viction of errours, & heresyes, & the establishment of 
truth & peace in the Churches/' ' and it made the most 

of them. 

* * * 

In its original formulation, Congregationalism had 
appealed to many earnest Englishmen because it held 
out the exalted possibility of identifying the visible 
church with the invisible. It rushed in where Calvin had 
feared to tread, and had the courage of its predestinarian 
convictions. Yet even the most zealous Separatists had 
realized that it was supremely difficult to tell who in this 
world actually were elected, and had admitted that 
hypocrites might conceivably pass even the most rigor- 
ous requirements for admission to a church. The more 
circumspect Ames accepted this risk as inevitable in a 
sinful world. Faith, he said, was that which made the 
mystical Church, but the external profession of faith 
was necessarily that which made a visible church. Since 
faith "cannot be wrought by constraint" there would be 
every reason to presume that those who voluntarily 
professed it had been sincerely wrought upon; still, we 
had constantly to bear in mind that an appearance was 
not the thing in itself. The most we could say with as- 
surance was that believers by profession were members 
of the Church "as touching the outward state." Con- 
cerning the "inward or essentiall state" no man was 
qualified to speak, either concerning himself or others. 2 
Yet even granting all this, the Congregational idea of 

1. Ibid. y chap, xvi, par. 2. 

2. Ames, Conscience, p. 9; 'The Marrow of Sacred Divinity , pp. 137-140. 


purifying the Church by admitting only those who at 
least strove to believe made the system all the more 
effective as a protest against the formalism and worldli- 
ness of the Establishment. 

Once again, however, the task of dominating a new 
environment called upon the system to subordinate the 
radical insistencies of its youth to the responsibilities of 
a vested interest. The duty of the Church was no longer 
to hold aloft a barely attainable ideal of Christian virtue, 
but rather to train up law-abiding members. As long as 
the leaders had been attacking English bishops and their 
minions, they had been able to contemplate purification 
of God's house by an unlimited expulsion of the profane, 
but in America they had to call a halt to the process lest 
they should completely empty the churches. Yet their 
theology still held the world to be a world of sinners, and 
they knew that if they stopped short of the most rigor- 
ous standards for admission to membership, if they ac- 
cepted evidences of reformation rather than made sure 
of reformation itself, they would have either to confess 
their system a failure, or else frankly to admit it to be at 
least as much concerned with external goodness as with 
real holiness. By this inevitable shift in emphasis the 
principle of restricted church membership was subtly 
transformed from a flashing scimitar drawn to sever the 
limbs of Satan into a net that caught up the substantial 

As long as New Englanders remained Congregational- 
ists, their textbooks perfunctorily rehearsed the old idea 
that church members possessed two "adjuncts," "who 
in respect of their Spiritual and Internal Estate (to wit, 


their Faith) are Invisible: but in respect of their Exter- 
nal condition (to wit, the Profession of Faith) are Visi- 
ble." l Cotton began his significant treatise, Of the Holi- 
ness of Church-Members y by insisting that it was "the 
duty of all the members of the particular visible Church 
... to be truly regenerate/' 2 But more and more the 
clergy began to realize they could not tell whether mem- 
bers had really lived up to their duty: "its certain, you 
can neither see, nor know, for truth of grace is invisible 
to man." 3 Therefore, whether or not the members ac- 
tually had experienced regeneration, if Congregational 
churches were to operate at all, they had to operate on 
the affirmative assumption. " Christ believed on, is the 
Foundation, or Rock, of the Catholick invisible Church: 
But Christ believed on and confessed, is the Rock where- 
upon a particular visible Church is built." 4 There, pre- 
cisely, was the danger. As Davenport warned, "in these 
places and times, where Church-fellowship is an honour, 
and drawes after it sundry out-ward and worldly ad- 
vantages," 5 many men would surely desire membership 
who had not been "converted," or who were incapable 
of living perpetually on the lofty emotional plane sup- 
posedly natural to the elect. But since the gestures ex- 
pressive of the true internal state were not difficult to 
imitate, at least well enough to pass inspection, clever 
men were sorely tempted to go through the motions. 
Noyes of Newbury, who never liked the restricted mem- 

1. Cotton, 'The Way oj the Congregational Churches Cleared^ pt. II, p. II. 

2. Of the Holiness of Church-Members, p. I . 

3. Hooker, Survey^ pt. i, p. 37. 

4. Davenport, 'The Power of Congregational Churches , pp. 9-10. 

5. MM., p. 17. 


bership, scored a telling point when he wrote that " the 
Churches may become impure, notwithstanding any 
thing we yet do, gifted men do easily learn the language 
of the pure ones/' x Events more than justified such ob- 
servations. Cotton Mather at the end of the century 
regretfully confessed that the " prodigious and astonish- 
ing scandal given by the extraordinary miscarriages of 
some that have made a more than ordinary profession of 
religion " had laid an " incredible temptation" before 
the multitude. 2 The facts were too patent to be ignored. 
Though officers and members might do all they could to 
examine carefully those who offered themselves to the 
fellowship, still, Davenport declared, " close Hypocrites 
will creep in." 3 Some saints, said Hooker, are so in 
truth, some in charity. "Saints according to charity are 
such, who in their practice and profession . . . they 
savour so much^ as though they had been with Jesus . . . 
These we call visible Saints (leaving secret things to 
God)'' 4 Cotton was less temperate: to say church mem- 
bers were in reality regenerate was, he declared, to speak 
of what they "ought to be de jure . . . rather than what 
they are, or are want to be de facto" 5 Shepard was 
downright pessimistic: "It is clearer then the day," he 
wrote, " that many who are inwardly, or in respect of 
inward Covenant, the Children of the Devil y are out- 
wardly, or in respect of outward Covenant, the Children 
of God." 6 

1. James Noyes, The Temple Measured, p. 66. 

2. Af *//*, 11, 493. 3. Davenport, op. '/., pp. 1 1-12. 

4. Hooker, Survey, pt. i, pp. 14-15. 

5. Cotton, A Defence of Mr. John Cotton, p. 71. 

6. Shepard, The Church-Membership of Children, pp. 1-2. 


These were damaging admissions. They certainly 
expose an anomalous predicament. Here was a Church 
which excluded a majority of the people from commun- 
ion with the Saviour because they could not produce 
evidence of his having called them, and yet admitted 
that evidence of the sort was so tricky that beyond all 
doubt an indefinite proportion of the ostensible elect 
were in reality children of the devil. The clergy of New 
England did not lack courage when called upon to rec- 
oncile many facts with their preconceived ideas, but 
none of them quite had the effrontery to plead for this 
situation purely upon the basis of any correspondence to 
spiritual realities. They who formerly scorned the social 
and ethical arguments of the Anglican Church were re- 
duced to defending Congregationalism on those very 
grounds; the erstwhile rebels against formalism came 
finally to rest upon a formality. The important thing, 
they were bound to admit, was the profession; they 
knew that it was desirable for examiners to test the sin- 
cerity of a profession, but the externality of the act was 
after all its essential aspect. 

The meaning is not as if we allowed none to be of the Church, but 
real Saints, and such as give demonstrative evidence of being mem- 
bers of the invisible Church; for we profess . . . that it is not raz/, 
but visible faith, not the inward being, but the outward profession of 
faith . . . that constitutes a visible Church. 1 

After acceptable professions had been uttered, whether 
in sincerity or not, the professors were made 

partakers of the covenant, and all the priviledges outwardly be- 
longing thereto; yea, though they have not saveing faith, but be 

I. Shepard, Two Questions , p. 5. 


hypocrites; and so themselves, and all that ever proceed from them, 
continue in the same state, parents and children successively, so long 
as the Lord continues the source of his dispensation; nor can any 
alteration befall them, whereby this estate is dissolved, but some 
apparant act of God breaking them off from him. 1 

Only public offenses could come within the purview of 
the church; "As the Church judgeth not of hidden 
crimes, so neither do the Faithfull judge of the Churches 
by their hidden hypocrisie, but by their open scandals in 
Doctrine, or life." 2 In fact, as long as hypocrites re- 
mained publicly obedient, they were for all practical 
purposes just as good as the truest believers. "The 
Spirit giveth many Gifts to the edification of others . . . 
which often does not reach to the Regeneration of him 
that Receiveth them." ' Sir Richard Saltonstall, made 
wiser by the Civil Wars, told Cotton that he thought 
compelling men to outward conformity created hypo- 
crites; and Cotton's reply indicates the long road official 
thought in the colony had travelled: "If it did so, yet 
better to be hypocrites than prophane persons. Hypo- 
crites give God part of his due, the outward man, but 
the prophane person giveth God neither outward nor 
inward man/* 4 Cotton had actually become convinced 
that good hypocrites should be allowed the keys of 
church power, if not for the reality of their faith, at least 
for the truth of the words "which they do profess in 
common with sincere Believers"; he deliberately argued 
that however "non-regeneration evidently known" 

1. George Phillips, A Reply to a Confutation, pp. 125-126. 

2. Cotton, The Way oj the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. II, p. 40. 

3. Cotton, A Defence of Mr. John Cotton, p. 71. 

4. Hutchinson, Collection of Papers Relating to the History of Massachusetts 
Bay (Prince Society, 1865), n, 132. 


might be a cause for holding a man out of the Church, it 
was "not a just cause of casting him out of the Church, 
after he be received." r In unguarded moments the New 
England divines came perilously close to admitting that 
they were concerned more with the letter than the spirit: 
"But if it should be asked," wrote Shepard, "how 
charity may know the reality of this profession, we an- 
swer: so long as the rule be attended, we leave every one 
to the wisdome of Christ/' 2 Church members were 
saints, peremptorily declared the Cambridge Platform, 
"though perhaps some or more of them be unsound, & 
hypocrites inwardly." 3 At this rate, the real question 
was no longer were you a believer, but could you pass 
for one among your neighbors? "Hypocrites in outward 
profession and appearance, go for faithful and godly." 4 
* * * 

Anomalous though this situation was, another in- 
herited principle of Congregationalism was gradually 
creating an even more peculiar dislocation in the New 
England churches. The original assumption of the polity 
had been that since only believers were entitled to the 
sacraments, only the children of believers could be bap- 
tized. "We doe administer baptisme only to such in- 
fants as wherof ye one parente, at ye least, is of some 
church." 5 It was, as a matter of fact, difficult to find 
any rational excuse for baptism at all when the sole dis- 
cernible basis for church membership was adult conver- 

1. Cotton, Of the Holiness of Church-Members , p. 56. 

2. Shepard, op. '/., p. 11. 3. Chap, iii, par. i. 

4. Cotton, 'The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. u, p. 41. 

5. Declaration of Robinson's church, 1617, Walker, Creeds and Platforms , 
p. 91. 


sion, but the Bible commanded the rite and so it had to 
be. Congregationalists explained the ceremony as a 
symbol of a sort of spiritual apprenticeship: it delivered 
the "seals" to those who in all probability would some 
day become converted and take the full church cove- 
nant. Baptized persons, it might be said, were proba- 
tionary members of the church, though they still could 
not be admitted to Communion "unlesse there doe first 
appeare an increase of Faith." ' The difficulties of this 
arrangement had not become apparent in Europe, for 
those who had been Congregationalists long enough to 
raise up children had generally lived in so surcharged an 
atmosphere that their offspring were emotionally pre- 
pared to experience definite conversions in early adoles- 
cence. While Congregationalists lived the stirring life of 
English Puritans, their sons went almost automatically 
from baptism to profession. 

The practice of baptism and religious apprenticeship 
was, of course, continued in America. It was the only 
way Congregationalism could assure itself of a future. 
" Churches are propogated by continuall succession." 2 
Hence infants, said Shepard, "may be in Gods account 
professors of ye Faith parentally, as well as personally." 3 
The children of Massachusetts church members there- 
fore received baptism, "the seal of righteousness of 
faith." But it was still understood to be merely an " offer 
of righteousness from God"; it could not in itself make 
the recipients " partakers of that grace offered." 4 When 

i. Ames, 'The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, p. 140. 

i. Phillips, A Reply to a Confutation, p. 4. 

}. Shepard, The Church-Membership of Children, p. 26. 

4. Phillips, op. cif. y p. 9. 


the baptized came of age they were expected to "hold 
forth publickly their personal confession of Faith "; 
otherwise "they may not be owned for Members." 1 
But once the colony was successfully established, it pro- 
vided children with an entirely different environment. 
Instead of living in an atmosphere of continuous reli- 
gious excitement, they grew up in comparative security, 
with the greater part of their energies directed to the 
physical tasks of frontier life. Under these conditions 
the emotional convulsion, which was understood to be 
conversion, simply did not arrive. 2 As Cotton Mather 
tells us, among the sons and daughters of the first gener- 
ation of settlers there were a number of sober persons, 
who were eminently moral and reputable, who sincerely 
desired to renew their baptismal covenant, yet who 
"could not come up to that experimental account of 
their own regeneration, which would sufficiently em- 
bolden their access to the other sacrament/' Calvinistic 
theology attributed conversion to the arbitrary conde- 
scension of God; environmental influences did not count. 
Therefore, if the original philosophy had been strictly 
observed, there could have been only one conclusion: 
these persons had not been called. Then if they were not 
regenerate, their children ought not even to be baptized, 
a contingency which " the good old generation could not, 
without many uncomfortable apprehensions, behold." 
Were the churches to retain their pristine insistence 
upon the reality of spiritual life as the sole basis for 

1. Davenport, 'The Power of Congregational Churches, p. 22. 

2. Cf. Frank Hugh Foster, A Genetic History of New England Theology , 
pp. 27 ff. 


church life, and watch the membership dwindle, or were 
they to loosen the requirements and retain the uncon- 
verted but baptized members on the basis of their mun- 
dane behavior and their family affiliations? As Cotton 
Mather phrased it, 

to make no ecclesiastical difference between these hopeful candi- 
dates . . . and Pagans, who might happen to hear the word of God in 
our assemblies, was judged a most unwarrantable strictness, which 
would quickly abandon the biggest part of our rountry unto heathen- 
ism. 1 

There is observable in the New England writings of 
the 1640*5 a decided tendency to evade this question. 
Richard Mather put off the curiosity of English Puritans 
in 1637 by telling them that because "of the Infancy of 
these Churches, we have had no occasion yet to deter- 
mine what to judge or practise one way or other/ 1 2 
With the passing of years and the multiplication of 
children, the issue became more urgent. Many of the 
divines began to feel that the system must be modified 
to suit the obstinate facts. Shepard, for instance, 
preached that "the children of godly parents, though 
they do not manifest faith in the Gospel, yet they are to 
be accounted of Gods Church, untill they positively 
reject the Gospel/' 3 He defended their participation in 
church government, even if they could not communi- 
cate, on exactly the same grounds on which he and his 
colleagues defended the existence of hypocrites within 
the church; he did not mean that non-converted but 

1. Magna/ia y ii y 277. 

2. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 20. 

3. Shepard, op. '/., p. 20. 


baptized members " enjoy the inward and saveing bene- 
fits of the Covenant/* but he did feel they could still 
be "in external, and outward Covenant, and therefore 
outwardly Church Members/' 1 Cotton also felt they 
should be continued as members on that basis "untill 
they justly deprive themselves of the priviledge of that 
Fellowship/' 2 The clergy clearly were putting out of 
mind some of their early fervor, and were becoming 
filled instead with a determination to keep the pillars of 
society within the ecclesiastical structure. Phillips of 
Waterrown rationalized the whole thing as an instance 
of human inability to know anything about subjective 
religious life, or to judge of anything save appearances. 
The faith of a parent was, he said, sufficient grounds to 
think a child belonged to God, " which though I may be 
mistaken and my judgement in this case is not infallible, 
yet it is as much as I can have of any man of yeeres, of 
whose state I cannot judge infallibly/' 3 It was alto- 
gether possible, according to this reasoning, not only for 
a church to become entirely constituted of hypocrites, 
but for it to be perpetuated by the hypocritical children 
of hypocrites. If the clergy were not careful, the element 
of conversion and profession, which had been the corner- 
stone of their system, would be entirely dropped out. 
The churches within two or three generations would 
become closed societies, made up of formally baptized 
but dubious Christians, holding their membership by 

1. Ibid.^ p. 1. 

2. Of the Holiness of Church-Members, p. i. 

3. Phillips, op. ctt.j p. 8. 


hereditary right. Then, of course, it would be difficult to 
explain to the many who were excluded for just what 
reason they were kept out. 

It was primarily to avoid such an eventuality that the 
General Court was moved in 1646 to call a Synod. The 
churches, struggling against a congenital weakness, were 
obviously incapable of curing themselves. Some of 
them, the Court recorded, were baptizing only children 
of members, some were already baptizing grandchildren, 
and some "do thinke that whatever be ye state of ye 
parents, baptisme ought not to be dispensed to any 
infants whatsoever/' l This difficulty was the most 
serious threat to uniformity the New England Way had 
yet encountered, for it was a problem in which parental 
emotion clearly clashed with the Bible, social expediency 
with religious tradition. The distress call of the Court 
was inspired, as will appear in the sequel, by a particular 
disturbance among the non-members; but by the time 
the Synod convened, in 1648, the immediate danger had 
passed; unless compelled, the elders hesitated to stir up 
more trouble by taking too emphatic a stand on the 
question of children of believers. The Cambridge Plat- 
form skirted the problem gingerly, barely affirming the 
conventional theory that only children of members were 
entitled to baptism, and that these should manifest their 
faith by open profession when they came of age. This 
did not solve the riddle, and the Synod's failure on this 
score was the Achilles' heel in the otherwise complete 
success of the Platform. Within a few years the "half- 

i. Massachusetts Records, n, 155. 


way covenant " was being openly agitated, and a volu- 
minous controversy was joined which for the rest of 
the century disturbed the peace of the churches. 

The final problem confronting the New England Way 
was one that had been completely unforeseen by its 
English forerunners. When they had preached re- 
stricted membership, they had never considered what, in 
a completely Congregationalized nation, should be done 
with those who were not admitted. They simply as- 
serted that all Christians "ought to frame the Visible 
Church wherin they live to this only true forme, or els 
betake themselves vnto some suche Church so formed." J 
They assumed that the technique of examination would 
be sufficiently accurate to make no mistakes in separat- 
ing the sheep from the goats, and they dismissed the 
shadowy non-members from their speculations as per- 
sons of no ecclesiastical importance. If those not joined 
to a visible church, said Ames, "doe obstinatly persist in 
their carelessenesse, whatsoever they doe otherwise pro- 
fesse, they can scarce be accounted for believers truly 
seeking the Kingdome of God/' 2 

While Congregationalists were concentrating their 
energies in England on proving the truth of the churches 
there, "in substance/' they became altogether habitu- 
ated to disregarding the profane; but in New England 
the unregenerate were an ever-present reality. The 
majority of the populace were expected to live quietly 

i. Jacob, The Divine Beginning, sig. A4 recto. 
i. The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, p. 143. 


under a church system which not only held them without 
the pale, but insinuated that they were in all probability 
damned. That certainly was conduct difficult for many 
Englishmen to comprehend. A friend of Winthrop's 
wrote in 1637 that men in England were hearing with 
amazement how one half the people in Massachusetts 
were shut out from communion: "Ther is now so much 
talke of yt, & such certeyne truth of yt, & I know of 
many of worth, for outward estate & ability, for wis- 
dome & grace, are much danted from comeing." T 
Thomas Lechford, a lawyer who was imprudent enough 
to try for three years to make a living in Massachusetts, 
published abroad the fact that " three parts of the people 
of the Country remaine out of the Church/' and called 
attention to what the leaders themselves must have 
realized was something of a problem: 

The people begin to complain, they are ruled like slaves, and in 
short time shall have their children for the most part remain un- 
baptized: and so have little more priviledge then Heathens, unlesse 
the discipline be amended and moderated. 2 

This was, however, a problem for which the Congrega- 
tional system admitted no real solution. There could be 
no churches without covenants, and there could be no 
covenants without professions of faith; if the mass were 
not able to make professions satisfactory to what were 
considered " charitable" standards, there was nothing 
the churches could do about them. "Church priviledges 
do not belong to Believers, as such, but onely to such as 
withall are Members of some particular Church/' 3 

i. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vn, n. i. Plain Dealing, pp. 89, 151. 
3. Richard Mather, Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, 
p. II. 


Hooker, confronting the augmenting problem of the 
non-members and recognizing that the process of ad- 
mission was clearly taking in many whom a more per- 
fect technique would reject, was compelled to conclude 
that probably some were being excluded who were better 
Christians than many who managed to gain admission. 
There were times when he very much wished " that such 
persons (many whereof we hope are godly) might enjoy 
all such priviledges, which might be usefull and helpfull 
to them and theirs'*; but his protracted meditation only 
convinced him that any other system was impossible, 
"and the main pillar principle which fortifies the judge- 
ment against all approaching assaults, is the nature and 
truth of Church-Covenant." l He concluded that those 
" who by God are excluded from his covenant ... as unfit, 
they are not fit to have communion with the Church'' 2 
The system was making enemies abroad and creating a 
disinherited and possibly rebellious class within the 
colony, but the Massachusetts churches had set out to 
prove that the principle of restricted church member- 
ship would work. They had to stand to their guns, al- 
though in the face of their own admission that hypo- 
crites abounded in the fold and the patent fact that 
baptized children were failing to become converted, they 
were finding it increasingly difficult to explain upon what 
basis "many persons liveing in ye country who have 
bene members of ye congregations in England'' were 
still "not found fit to be received at ye Lords table here." 3 

1. Hooker, Survey, pt. in, p. 12. 

2. //W.,pt. i, p. 17. 

3. Massachusetts Records , II, 155. 


The best the divines could do was to rehearse the 
dogmas of Ames, and intimate that anyone who com- 
plained because he was rejected had only himself to 
blame. Believers, said Davenport, were in duty bound 
to join a church, "and if they persist in that neglect, 
they can hardly be accounted Believers truly seeking 
the Kingdom of God, what profession of Religion soever 
they make otherwise/' z We do not refuse admission to 
any man "of approved piety/* said Cotton, "if he be 
willing to accept it." 2 If, however, a man was willing, 
and yet was blackballed, he obviously had not exhibited 
approvable piety. 

The fear of God, and Faith of those men, may be justly doubted, 
whose setled abode is in a place where Churches are gather'd and 
order'd according to Christ, and yet are not after a convenient time 
joyned to them.3 

The system might creak, but being that of Christ, it 
could not fail. If there were but few church members in 
the colony, "That is the fault of people, not of the rule, 
nor of the way; If the Saints be thin sowen, who can 
helpe it?" 4 And if men were not religious, "no not so 
much as in profession," why, Cotton asked, "should it 
be accounted a grievous absurdity, not to receive them 
into the Church?" 5 There was, Davenport concluded, 
every reason to eliminate them: "The same Spirit of 
unrighteousness and enmity against Christ, worketh 
and bears rule in an unconverted Christian, as doth in an 

1. The Power of Congregational Churches, p. 58. 

2. Of the Holiness of Church-Members, pp. 29-30. 

3. Davenport, A Discourse about Civil Government, p. 21. 

4. Weld, An Answer to IV. R. y p. 15. 

5. The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. I, p. 73. 


unbaptized Heathen/' l The Cambridge Platform once 
again summarized the matured conviction of the years 
by repeating the clergy's dogged defense of the restricted 
membership in spite of all foreign criticism and domestic 

We conceive the receiving of them into our churches would rather 
loose & corrupt our Churches, then gain & heale them. A little 
leaven layed in a lump of dough, will sooner leaven the whole lump, 
then the whole lump will sweeten it. Wee therefore find it safer, to 
square rough & unhewen stones, before they be layed into the 
building, rather then to hammer & hew them, when they lye un- 
evenly in the building. 2 

The churches, by themselves, could do no more. If 
" those without " still refused to see the justice of their 
relegation, then it was up to the civil government to 
convince them. Meantime, the churches had achieved 
an ecclesiastical "due form/' They had proved that the 
colony was not Separatist, and was therefore religiously 
legitimate; they had demonstrated that the discipline 
was divinely ordained, and had perfected methods for 
maintaining uniformity; they had developed the system 
so that only responsible persons should control it, even 
though they had largely transformed the nature of the 
polity in the process; finally, they had provided ma- 
chinery for keeping out those who could not be trusted 
with a voice in the direction of affairs. The churches had 
solved one half of the old Puritan dilemma, by showing 
how a discipline gathered out of the Word could sub- 
serve the political ideals of civil supremacy and national 
unity. In order that the other half of the dilemma also 

1. Davenport, op. cit., p. 21. 

2. Preface, Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 200. 


might be disposed of, in order that the polity might 
have an opportunity of showing just how effectively it 
could cooperate with the secular office, the magistrates 
had to do their share. The politicians had to create in 
Massachusetts a civil government equally in accord 
with the best Puritan conceptions of what should con- 
stitute a "due form. 


THE secular leaders of the Massachusetts enterprise 
did not have to be told what was expected of them. 
Winthrop recognized at once that the task of the Great 
Migration involved as much a problem of civil as of ec- 
clesiastical government. Behind his statement lay the 
century-old Protestant endeavor to harmonize State 
and Church, and to him a proper civil rule was one which 
would contribute to the erection of that spiritual 
Utopia which Puritans had long preached to unheeding 
royal ears. If Massachusetts was to be the cynosure of 
all Protestant eyes, the shining example of the Christian 
commonwealth, then its civil government had to assume 
the duties and responsibilities of a civil supremacy. 

The accomplishment of this design required, however, 
that the government first prove its ability to stand 
squarely upon its own political feet. It could hardly rule 
in accordance with Puritan ideals unless it had first dem- 
onstrated it could rule at all. To protect the Church, it 
must become capable of enforcing its decrees; to sup- 
press heresy, it must become competent to meet emer- 
gencies; to preserve orthodoxy, it must become strong 
enough to resist foreign domination or domestic revolt. 
The colony had, in short, to meet the twofold task of 
effecting a practical freedom from English interference 
and of establishing a firm control over the populace 


before it could render the Church the service implied in 
the possession of a "due form/' 

From the charter itself the leaders took their cue for 
dealing with the first aspect of the problem. Before 
leaving England, the Company had informed Endecott 
that the patent conferred upon it an absolute authority 
over such of the King's subjects as might inhabit the 
jurisdiction. Lawyers have learnedly doubted whether 
the colony was legally entitled to the extensive powers it 
assumed, but over fine points the leaders themselves 
were not inclined to be punctilious. They were satisfied 
that because a residential requirement had been omitted 
from the patent, they had a perfect right to become a 
corporation upon the place if they chose. They cer- 
tainly did not hesitate to act upon that assumption. 
Straws proclaim the way winds blow, or as Thomas 
Dudley put it, "small things in the beginning of natural 
or politic bodies are as remarkable as greater in bodies 
full grown." ' The Massachusetts chiefs indicated at 
once that in their view the charter had invested them 
with a sovereign dignity. Endecott began the wreck of 
Thomas Morton's hilarious station at Merry-Mount, 
and Winthrop banished the roisterer "because the hab- 
itation of the wicked shall no more appear in Israel." 2 
The Court of Assistants, in September, 1630, declared 
that no persons should be permitted to settle in the 
colony without the consent of the magistrates, 3 and the 

1. Dudley, "Letter to the Countess of Lincoln" (1631), Young, Chronicles of 
Massachusetts Bay, p. 329. 

2. Thomas Morton, New English Canaan (Prince Society, 1883), p. 311; 
Winthrop, Journal, I, 53. 

3. Massachusetts Records, i, 76. 


following June added that neither could they travel out 
of the patent without official leave. 1 Thomas Gray, for 
"dyvers things obiected against him/' was expelled in 
the fall of 1630; 2 on the first of March, 1631, six men 
were sent back to England as "persons vnmeete to in- 
habit here/* 3 and the next month the picturesque Sir 
Christopher Gardiner was invited to follow. 4 May saw 
Thomas Walford and his wife banished "for his con- 
tempt of authoritie & confrontinge officers"; 5 and June 
witnessed Ratcliffe's whipping, the loss of his ears, and 
his banishment "for uttering mallitious & scandulous 
speeches against the gouernment & the church of 
Salem. " 6 The months thereafter were punctuated with 
such instances of summary justice, the most significant 
of which was the sentencing of Thomas Knower to the 
bilboes in April, 1632, "for treateing the Court that, if 
hee should be punist, hee would haue it tryed in Eng- 
land whether hee was lawfully punished or not/' 7 If the 
charter allowed no appeal from the determinations of 
the colonial government, then to all intents and pur- 
poses the government was indeed sovereign, and could 
perfectly keep step with an established Church. 

The position suggested by these decrees was more 
frankly avowed in December, 1633. The Quixotic Roger 
Williams then became suddenly obsessed with a peculiar 
sympathy for the Indians, and circulated " a large Booke 

i. Ibid.,?. 88. 2. Ibid., p. 77. 

3. /#//., p. 83. 

4. Winthrop, Journal, i, 63. 

5. Massachusetts Records, i, 86. 

6. Ibid., p. 88; Winthrop, Journal, \, 64. 

7. Massachusetts Records, i, 94. 


in Quarto/' maintaining "that we have not our Land by 
Pattent from the King, but that the Natives are the 
true owners of it, and that we ought to repent of such a 
receiving it by Pattent." l Williams's high moral stand 
caused the elders some anxious moments as they turned 
the pages of their Bibles to find parallels between the 
Israelites* occupation of Canaan and the Massachusetts 
settlement, but Winthrop spoke more to the purpose 
when he told Endecott that an aspersion upon the royal 
grant might "haue provoked our Kinge against us, & 
putt a sworde into his hande to destroye us/' 2 For the 
colony to have permitted the patent to be called into 
question "had subverted the fundamentall State, and 
Government of the Countrey." 3 The all-important 
pretense to legitimacy, without which the Puritans 
could never have ventured the colonial solution of their 
peculiar dilemma, depended solely upon this one sheet of 

By that Patent it is, that we received allowance from the King to 
depart his Kingdome, and to carry our goods with us, without of- 
fence to his Officers By the Patent, certain select men (as 

Magistrates, and Freemen) have power to make Lawes, and the 
Magistrates to execute Justice. . . . By the Patent we have Power 
to erect such a Government of the Church, as is most agreeable to 
the Word. 4 

As long as the officials of the Bay kept the document 
safely on their own side of the Atlantic Ocean, their 

I. Williams, "Mr. Cottons letter lately printed" (1644), Publications of the 

Narragansett Club, i, 324. 
1. Charles Deane, Roger IPit/iams and the Massachusetts Charter, p. 6. 

3. Cotton, "A Reply to Mr. Williams," Publications of the Narragansett 
Club, n, 47. 

4. /&</., p. 45. 


autonomy was assured. An overburdened and dis- 
tracted Laud could not contest the interpretation of a 
charter which had been whisked into another hemi- 
sphere; anyone on the spot who disputed the magistrates' 
version could receive no more support from a distant 
and none too solvent English government than did 
Thomas Knower when he found himself in the bilboes 
for threatening an appeal to London. If the governors 
could only keep hold of the charter, they were safe, and 
rather than part with it they demonstrated themselves 
capable of going to considerable lengths. In 1634 Sir 
Ferdinando Gorges convinced the Privy Council that 
the insolence of the Puritan colony must be chastised. 
Gorges had become an implacable foe because he be- 
lieved that the Company had obtained its patent from 
the Council for New England under false pretenses, and 
that the grant overlapped one which had been issued to 
his son Robert. In 1632 he had presented a petition 
against the charter, and seen the Privy Council disre- 
gard it, as Winthrop says, " through the Lord's good 
providence, and the care of our friends in England/' * 
But two years later the Council was learning the true 
state of affairs, and readily entertained a second peti- 
tion. Gorges declared that the charter had made the 
settlers "a free people/' who were now laboring "for no 
other cause save onely to make themselves absolute 
Masters of the Countrey "; he requested that a governor 
be appointed " neither papistically nor scizmattically 
affected." 2 Sir John Banks instituted quo warranto pro- 

1. Winthrop, Journal^ I, 99, 101. 

2. Records of the Council for New England^ p. 125. 


ceedings, charging the patentees with various political 
offenses, such as the assumption of the right to admit 
and discharge the King's subjects at will, the claim to 
sole government over persons in the jurisdiction, the use 
of martial law, and the making of laws contrary to the 
laws of England. 1 Good Matthew Craddock was ordered 
to write for the document. 

The colony's response was electric. The magistrates 
replied to Craddock, but sent " no answere or excuse " to 
the Council. When Craddock again applied for the 
charter, the magistrates continued their Fabian tactics, 
pleading that it could not be shipped until the General 
Court could meet in September, and on July 29, after 
consulting with " divers of the ministers" took measures 
to fortify Boston harbor. 2 In September, instead of 
doing anything about the charter, the General Court 
reaffirmed the acts of the magistracy, made provision 
for training troops and gathering arms and munitions, 
required all towns to be equipped, prescribed new oaths 
for the militia officers "suteable to their places," and 
even authorized employing Indian mercenaries "to 
shoote with a peece." 3 Meantime word was received 
that the old Council for New England had voluntarily 
surrendered its charter, and that affairs of the region 
were to be regulated thereafter by a royal commission 
with Laud at the head, which information, Winthrop 

1. Hutchinson, A Collection of Papers, i, ^4~^l'-> Mass - Hist - Soc -> ColL > 
Series 2, viii, 97; Gideon Delaplaine Scull, "The Quo Warranto of 1635," 
New England Historical and Genealogical Register, April, 1884, pp. 209- 

2. Winthrop, Journal, i, 129, 130. 

3. Massachusetts Records , i, 123-128. 


says, only "occasioned the magistrates and deputies to 
hasten our fortifications/' I Before adjourning, the 
Court left an order on the books that Winthrop, Haynes, 
Humphrey, and Endecott " shall haue power to con- 
suite, direct, & giue command for ye manageing & 
ordering of any warr that may befall vs for the space of a 
yeare nexte ensueing." 2 In January the elders unani- 
mously agreed that if a royal governor were sent over "we 
ought not to accept him, but defend our lawful posses- 
sions (if we were able); otherwise to avoid or protract/* 3 
The committee was reorganized in March and given all 
the powers of martial law: 

... to imprison or confine any that they shall Judge to be enemyes 
to the commonwealth, & such as will not come vnder commaund or 
restrainte, as they shalbe required, it shalbe lawful for the said com- 
missioners to put such persons to death. 4 

Freeman and non- freeman alike were not only taxed 5 
but were required under compulsion of the constable to 
contribute a due quota of physical labor on public 
.works. 6 These works were, of course, fortifications 
against England. Beyond this there was but one possi- 
ble step actual independence. Had Laud or Gorges 
been free to give military support to the quo warranto 
summons, there seems no doubt that rather than sur- 

1. Winthrop, Journal, I, 135. 

2. Massachusetts Records , i, 125. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, i, 145. 

4. Massachusetts Records, i, 138, 147. 

5. So heavy was the taxation for this year that when the wealthy Haynes 
was elected governor he waived his salary, because "he observed how 
much the people had been pressed lately with public charges, which the 
poorer sort did much groan under" (Winthrop, Journal, I, 150). 

6. Massachusetts Records, i, 124, 139. 


render the leaders would have taken a chance on resist- 
ance, and a monument on Bunker Hill might have com- 
memorated an earlier date. 

Because neither Gorges nor Laud was able to project 
an invasion across the Atlantic, the crisis did not ma- 
terialize, and the colony, by staving off the loss of its 
charter, became a practically independent power. The 
elders in 1644 considered the General Court a sovereign 

Ye Generall Cort ... is ye chiefe civill power of this common 
wealth, & may act in all things belonging to such a power concerning 
counsell & Judicature, namely, for making lawes, receiving appeales, 
quaestibning & sentencing ye highest officers, & consulting about ye 
weightiest affaires of this commonwealth, & in all other cases which 
in their wisdome they thinke fit to take cognisance of. 1 

Wheelwright was told that he could not appeal his sen- 
tence to England, " for by the king's grant we had power 
to hear and determine without any reservation/' 2 
Winslow, as the agent for Plymouth, in 1635 petitioned 
the Council on Plantations for permission to withstand 
the Dutch and French; but Massachusetts had already 
assumed that the colonies could make war or peace as 
they chose and demurred, lest "such precedents might 
endanger our liberty, that we should do nothing here- 
after but by commission out of England/' 3 The mo- 
mentum of controversy had carried the Puritan band 
into exile with a deep determination to lose nothing that 
they gained by their removal; at the same time their 

1. Ibid., n, 95; Winthrop, Journal, n, 216. 

2. Ibid., i, 240; Antinomianism in Massachusetts Bay, p. 147; Plain Dealing, 
p. 64. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, i, 164. 


religious philosophy had imbued them with a sense of 
invincible rectitude; and though they would make im- 
mense efforts to keep up a semblance of loyalty, they 
deliberately intended it should be no more than a sem- 
blance. Even that much they would repudiate before 
again submitting to the bishops. So audacious had the 
colony's conduct become that by 1636 it had ceased to 
fly the King's colors in the harbor. For this reason a 
sailor on an English ship called the townsmen traitors, 
and though his captain brought him to apologize, all the 
skippers then in the harbor besought the magistrates to 
display the standard at least once, "in regard they 
should be examined upon their return, what colors they 
saw here/' Winthrop, Dudley, and Cotton decided this 
request was no more than reasonable, since the fort was 
openly maintained in the King's name. Thereupon they 
were embarrassed to discover there was not a single 
royal ensign in the Bay, and they had to borrow one 
from a ship so that the crews might truthfully swear 
they had seen the King's banner afloat in Massachu- 
setts! r 

The second half of the governmental task was not so 
easily achieved. The leaders knew that to preserve the 
integrity of the venture those men who had conceived 
the ideals to which the commonwealth was dedicated 
must remain in power. Yet the colony attracted many 
immigrants, some of them not noticeably godly, persons 
whom John White called " the very scum of the earth/' 2 
Furthermore, even good Christians, becoming absorbed 

1. Ibid., i, 181-182. 

2. Cal. St. Pap., Colonial, America and West Indies, I, 155. 


in the material tasks of a new world, might allow lesser 
and more selfish considerations to dim the original 
vision. From the leaders' point of view a domestic up- 
heaval spelled ruin as distinctly as any possible interfer- 
ence of Laud. The internal problem in the State paral- 
leled that in the churches, and in their respective spheres 
magistrates and elders alike strove to hold a decisive in- 
fluence. Where the elders combated the dissidence of 
seventeenth century dissent, the magistrates sought to 
bridle the political assertiveness of seventeenth century 

It might have seemed as though the magistrates were 
fighting against the stars in their courses. Englishmen of 
that era evidently had an amazing propensity for seizing 
as much self-government as they could get their hands 
on. Just as in Virginia the precocious House of Burgesses 
gathered with hardly so much as an "if-you-please" to 
the nominal rulers of the commercial enterprise in Eng- 
land, or just as in Lord Saye's plantation at Barbados 
4 'godly men were unwilling to come under other gover- 
nors than such as they should make choice of them- 
selves/' x or just as the restless settlers in the Carolinas 
made a mockery of John Locke's feudal constitution, so 
in Massachusetts the people displayed political im- 
pulses with which the leaders had always to reckon. In 
1643 the magistrates refused judgment to Goody Sher- 
man when she accused Robert Keayne of killing her 
sow. Keayne had made himself unpopular by profiteer- 
ing from the then current financial depression, and the 
deputies insisted upon reviving the already much con- 

i. Winthrop, Journal y i, 334. 


tested case. "Neither the judgment of near all the magi- 
strates, nor the concurrence of the elders and their medi- 
ation . . . could prevail with them to let such a cause 
fall." x The reason for this persistence, Winthrop con- 
tinues, was not only the deputies' desire for victory, but 
their cognizance of the fact that their constituencies 
were not yet satisfied, which seemed plainly to show 
their "democraticall spirit." In England Winthrop and 
his associates had been heart and soul in the struggle 
against unlimited prerogative; in New England, when 
they were called upon to preserve a state dedicated to 
peculiar and rarified ideals, they found themselves 
anxiously seeking opportunities to avoid the very limita- 
tions they had wished to impose upon the King. 

In a purely political respect, however, the magistrates 
had little opportunity to acquire an absolute sway. In 
more ways than one Massachusetts had a government 
founded upon fundamental law. It was, in the first 
place, designed by the charter. Though the machinery 
of commercial regulation which this document unwit- 
tingly bestowed upon the State needed various extra- 
legal supplements, the form of the government was un- 
changeably designated, and the power of legislation 
was placed in a General Court of all the citizens. To 
that extent the charter was an irrevocable constitution, 
a law of the land, and as such the magistrates had to 
abide by it. 

Furthermore, the colony was an offshoot of Puritan- 
ism, and therefore was founded not only upon its patent, 
but upon the eternal laws of the Bible, which Puritans 

I. /*</. ,n, 1 1 8. 


had been contending were adequate guides for most de- 
partments of life. Even when Puritans had granted that 
there might be some cases not specifically covered by 
the Word they had held that deductions from the Bible 
could reasonably be made to cover such " indifferent 
matters." In 1635 the ministers reminded the Court 
that it was the duty of the magistrate " in all lawes about 
indifferent things, to shew the Reason, not onely the 
Will, to shew the expediency, as well as the indifferency 
of things of that nature/' Such demonstrations were to 
be according to "the Rules of Expediency set downe 
in the Word." r Accordingly the next General Court 
ordered that in administering justice the assistants were 
to proceed according to the laws then established "& 
when there is noe law, then as neere the lawe of God as 
they can." 2 Saltonstall wrote in 1642 that in a religious 
commonwealth there should exist no power, adminis- 
tration, or authority "but such as are commanded and 
ordained of God"; this principle the assembled elders 
solemnly endorsed, with the added provision that God 
might command "either expressly or by consequence, by 
particular examples or by general rules." 3 On this score, 
also, the leaders had to be careful. They had to respect 
the limits of the charter, and they had also to be ever 
prepared to show authorization for their actions in the 
Bible, "either expressly or by consequence," and to 
explain away what scriptural passages the democracy 
might quote against them. 

1. Quoted in Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, ed. Samuel L. 
Caldwell, Pub. Narragansett Club, in, 255. 

2. Massachusetts Records, I, 175. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, n, 86-87. 


Besides being a Puritan enterprise, Massachusetts was 
specifically a Congregational one, and for better or worse 
was saddled with the social philosophy inseparably con- 
nected with the ecclesiastical polity. We have already 
noted that the social compact was a peculiar tenet of 
Congregationalism; the prophets of the Way had in- 
variably posited it as the basis of the State as well as of 
the Church. For ministers to assume their calling, 
Browne had said, there must first be an agreement of the 
Church; so "for ciuil Magistrates, there must be an 
agreement of the people or Common welth." ' Penry had 
held "it is the crown and honour of princes ... to 
be in covenant with their subjects/ 1 2 and the Separa- 
tists aboard the Mayflower had found in a covenant the 
obvious answer to the problem of political organization. 
Jacob had pointed out that a covenant was basic to the 
existence of a church, and had added, "By such a free 
mutuall consent also all Civil perfect Corporations did 
first beginne." 3 Even before the migration had reached 
America, Winthrop declared the emigrants had entered 
into a compact not only with each other but with God: 

It is by mutuall consent, through a speciall ouervaluing provi- 
dence ... to seeke out a place of cohabitation and consorteshippe 
under a due forme of Government both ciuill and ecclesiasticall. In 
such cases as this, the care of the publique must ouersway all private 
respects. . . . For this end we must be knitt together, in this worke 
as one man. . . . We are entered into a Covenant with Him for this 
worke. . . . We have professed to enterprise these and those ends, 
upon these and those accounts. 4 

1. Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 25. 

2. Dale, History of English Congregationalism, p. 158. 

3. Burrage, Early English Dissenters, n, 157. 

4. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 3, vn, 45~47- 


The actual creation of the Massachusetts State by the 
deliberate assemblage of the people dramatized the 
theory, and it became a fixed idea in New England's 
sociology. Those who "come together into a wilder- 
ness/' Winthrop declared in 1642, " where are nothing 
but wild beasts and beastlike men, and there confederate 
together in civil and church estate," such people do, 
"implicitly at least, bind themselves to support each 
other, and all of them that society, whether civil or 
sacred, whereof they are members." l John Cotton de- 
fended the church compact because it was evident "by 
the light of nature, that all civill Relations are founded 
in Covenant"; he could see no other way whereby a 
people could become "one visible body." 2 One result of 
this reasoning, as a certain elder once put it, was that 
if the uniting of freemen under a civil bond created 
the commonwealth, then those freemen were "the first 
subject of ciuill policy and power." 3 And in Massachu- 
setts more than lip service had to be paid the popular 
origin of the State, for in the republican government 
provided by the charter the people were always ca- 
pable of asserting themselves as "the first subjects" of 
power. The actions of the magistrates, the elders ad- 
mitted, "are to be limited by ye Generall Cort, as ye 
supreme counsell." 4 

Finally, because the emigrants were almost entirely 
men who had contended against, or at least resented, the 
King's refusal to accept parliamentary limitation 

1. Winthrop, Journal, n, 83. 

2. 'The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, p. 4. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc. y Proc. y XLVI, 280. 

4. Massachusetts Records, n, 92. 


because they believed their migration had been precipi- 
tated by precisely that refusal the colony could never 
afford publicly to disown the imperishable principle for 
which the brethren in England were still striving and 
suffering. Puritans had thoroughly learned their lesson, 
and even the mouthpiece of the Massachusetts theoc- 
racy, John Cotton himself, preached that it was un- 
wholesome to give officers in Church and State uncon- 
ditional authority: 

It is necessary therefore, that all power is on earth be limited, 
Church power or other. ... It is counted a matter of danger to the 
State to limit Prerogatives; but it is a further danger, not to have 
them limited. ... It is therefore fit for every man to be studious of 
the bounds which the Lord hath set: and for the People, in whom 
fundamentally all power lyes, to give as much power as God in his 
word gives to men: And it is meet that Magistrates in the Common- 
wealth, and so officers in Churches should desire to know the utmost 
bounds of their own power. 1 

"If you tether a Beast at night/' he said, with a grim- 
ness that carries us back to Pym and Hampden, "he 
knows the length of his tether before morning/' 2 

Therefore, when the secular leaders in Massachusetts 
set out to keep the populace facing in the right direction, 
when they undertook to prove to the world that a gov- 
ernment which endorsed Congregational churches could 
just as surely reckon with social problems as one which 
cooperated with an episcopal hierarchy, they labored 
under a handicap. They were subject to several ines- 
capable restrictions, they could easily be compelled to 
toe various marks, and the possibility of their being 

1. An Exposition upon the Thirteenth Chapter of the Revelation, p. 72. 

2. I bid., p. 77. 


ousted by a popular uprising was always imminent. 
They had, constitutionally speaking, hardly room to 
turn around in; yet it was from within these narrow con- 
fines that they had to wield sufficient influence to direct 
the colony to those ends to which it had theoretically 
pledged itself. 

The political conflict of the oligarchy and the freemen 
has been variously chronicled, and our purposes do not 
require a detailed narrative. But one or two aspects 
deserve comment if we are to understand the emergence 
of a government capable of supporting a uniform ortho- 
doxy. In general, the deputies were on the democratic 
side of the fence, and all but one or two of the assistants 
on the other. The latters' attitude was their natural 
heritage. Bishops had called Puritans demagogues, and 
in their rebuttals the insulted champions of reform had 
asserted their utter abhorrence of all democratic ideas. 
Cotton declared that his inculcation of subjection was 
no idle gesture, for the godly of Massachusetts had prac- 
tised what they preached; they had been obedient to 
whatever magistrates they had ever lived under, " Or- 
thodox or erroneous, just of our Consciences, or unjust 
against them/' l He was teaching in America nothing 
that he had not taught in England; it had always been 
his settled conviction that churches should obey the 
authorities, "in patient suffering their unjust persecu- 
tions without hostile or rebellious resistance/* 2 Since 
the officers of the colony had been consistently obedient 
and reverent to magistrates, when they had been the 

1. Cotton, 'The Eloudy Tenent Washed, p. 119. 

2. Cotton, 'The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven , p. 52. 


citizens, they could see no reason now that they them- 
selves were magistrates why their subordinates should 
not treat them accordingly. Though their decisions 
might conceivably be unjust, the citizens should abide 
by them precisely as they themselves had formerly 
obeyed the unjust edicts of James and Charles. When 
the Boston congregation moved to censure Winthrop for 
his abrupt measures against the Antinomians, he wrote 
them a little treatise, concluding "that though their 
magistrates did oppresse & iniure them, yet they should 
praye for them, & commende them, & seeke to winne 
them by gentlenesse. ... A man may not say to a king, 
thou art wicked; nor call princes ungodly/ 1 l In 1639 
the Court reduced the representation of each town 
from three to two deputies, whereupon some freemen 
protested. Winthrop invoked the Reformation's philos- 
ophy of government to bring them to their senses, point- 
ing out that the precepts of subjection applied in a 
republic no less than in a monarchy: 

When the people have chosen men to be their rulers, and to make 
their laws, and bound themselves by oath to submit thereto, now to 
combine together ... in a public petition to have any order re- 
pealed, which is not repugnant to the law of God, savors of resisting 
an ordinance of God; for the people, having deputed others, have no 
power to make or alter laws, but are to be subject; and if any such 
order seem unlawful or inconvenient, they were better prefer some 
reasons, etc., to the Court, with manifestation of their desire to 
move them to a review, than peremptorily to petition to have it re- 
pealed, which amounts to a plain reproof of those whom God hath 
set over them, and putting dishonor upon them, against the tenor of 
the fifth commandment. 2 

1. Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop^ u, 213. 

2. Winthrop, Journal^ I, 303. 


As Cartwright had long before predicted, a Puritan gov- 
ernment would be no friend to "a lewd and licentious 

Inspired by such ideals, the magistrates naturally set 
their faces against the persistently democratic deputies. 
They permitted no mistake about the matter. "De- 
mocracy/' Cotton wrote to Lord Saye and Sele, "I do 
not conceyve, that ever God did ordeyne as a fitt gov- 
ernment eyther for church or commonwealth. If the 
people be governors, who shall be governed ?" x Win- 
throp defended the magistrates' claim to a negative 
voice lest otherwise the government be brought "from a 
mixt Aristocratic to a meere Democratic. ... A Demo- 
cratic is, among most Civill nations, accounted the 
meanest & worst of all formes of Government." 2 In 
spite of all limitations which the patent, the Bible, or the 
social covenant laid upon them, magistrates who spoke 
in these accents were determined that by fair means or 
foul they would let none of the "inferior sort" stand 
between them and the successful erection of the Puritan 
orthodoxy they had left England to create. 

It is a tribute to the political genius of the English 
race that when the means employed by the magistrates 
were too patently foul, they failed. Whenever the assist- 
ants clearly transgressed the limits of the fundamental 
law, whenever they ran counter to English political 
tradition, they were blocked. They attempted at the 
beginning of the settlement to secrete the charter and 
disregard it. It had legalized the migration to a happier 

1. Hutchinson, History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, I, 497. 

2. Robert C. Winthrop, op. cit., p. 430. 


ecclesiastical clime, where, once arrived, the magistrates 
were willing to forget its specifications in order to make 
sure the venture should not miscarry for lack of their 
personal direction. The assistants themselves were the 
only officially enrolled freemen in the colony in 1630; at 
the first session of the " General Court/' in October, 
they, as the people, before any other freemen had been 
admitted, voted to themselves, as the assistants, the 
sole powers of choosing the governor and enacting legis- 
lation. 1 The charter had clearly vested these functions 
in the whole number of the freemen; now the right of 
electing the assistants was all that was to be left to such 
as the assistants would enfranchise. 2 In the spring of 
1631 the magistrates further declared, "in regard the 
number of Assistants are but fewe, & some of them go- 
ing for England/' that a mere majority of them might 
hold a Court, although the charter specifically stated 
that seven constituted a quorum. 3 Though the patent 
required four General Courts a year, none was called 
between May, 1631, and May, 1632. "When I came 
into the Country . . ./' wrote Israel Stoughton, "the 
gouernment was solely in the hands of the assistants/' 4 
But by 1634 the citizens became suspicious. A delega- 
tion called on Winthrop and asked to view the charter. 
He attempted to evade, explaining that the assistants 
had assumed the power of legislation because the free- 
men had now grown too numerous to work together. If 
the citizens wished to participate in the government 

I. Massachusetts Records, I, 79. 2. Winthrop, Journal, i, 74~75- 

3. Massachusetts Records, I, 84. 

4. Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc., LVIII, 452. 


they would have "to have a select company to intend 
that work, yet for the present they were not furnished 
with a sufficient number of men qualified for such a 
business/' x The freemen, however, had their own 
opinions; they selected delegates from each of the towns, 
who appeared at the General Court of May, 1634, an d at 
one fell swoop effected a constitutional revolution. They 
deposed Winthrop and elected Dudley, although Cotton, 
informed of their intentions, had preached at the open- 
ing session that a magistrate should not be turned out of 
office without just cause, his incumbency being in the 
nature of a " freehold/' 2 A comprehensive declaration 
was entered on the books that by the charter only 
the whole Court could choose and admit freemen, 
make and establish laws, elect officers, prescribe their 
duties, raise money or taxes, and dispose of land. 
Thereafter four General Courts were compelled to as- 
semble every year, at each of which the freemen were 
to be adequately represented by their deputies. 3 Truly, 
as Winthrop admitted, "many good orders were made 
this Court." 4 

The magistrates made one other notable move to sub- 
vert the charter, and once more were checkmated. Dur- 
ing the hysteria of the Antinomian crisis, "upon the 
advice and solicitation of the elders/' 5 a standing coun- 
cil for life was created, to which Winthrop, Dudley, and 
Endecott were appointed, with the possession of full 
magisterial powers whether they were chosen as assist- 

i. Winthrop, Journal., I, 122. 2. I bid. > p. 124. 

3. Massachusetts Records, i, 117-119. 4. Winthrop, Journal, I, 125. 

5. Ibid., n, 60; Massachusetts Records, i, 167, 174. 


ants or not. When the panic blew over, the freemen 
realized that this council was neither constitutional by 
the patent nor amenable to their vote. At the first 
attack the magistrates surrendered, and the Court ren- 
dered the council innocuous by declaring that no coun- 
cillor could perform any magisterial act unless he were 
annually elected an assistant, " according to the tenure 
of the patent/* l Winthrop pointed the moral of the 

Here may be observed, how strictly the people would seem to stick 
to their patent, when they think it makes for their advantage, but 
are content to decline it, where it will not warrant such liberties as 
they have taken up without warrant from thence. 2 

"I see the spirits of the people runne high," Nathaniel 
Ward wrote about this time, "& what they gett they 
hould." 3 

Ward was referring to a recognizably English desire 
for what Dunning has called "the security inherent in 
the appeal to recorded grant, to custom, to precedent." 4 
The deputies eminently demonstrated their desire for 
that security in a long contest. During the first summer 
of the colony, the assistants had commissioned them- 
selves justices of the peace, "to hauelike power that jus- 
tices of peace hath in England for reformation of abuses 
& punishing of offenders." 5 A year previous the Com- 
pany had instructed Endecott to mete out punishment 
"(as neere as may be) according to the lawes of this 

1. Ibid., p. 264; Winthrop, Journal, I, 304. 

2. //*/., p. 305. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vn, 26. 

4. William Archibald Dunning, A History of Political 'Theories, II, 194. 

5. Massachusetts Records, I, 74. 


kingdome"; x but when the leaders themselves arrived 
upon the scene, they became much less inclined to hunt 
for precedents in English law. They were bound too 
much as it was, and a discretionary judicial power was to 
them an invaluable asset. Very soon they deliberately 
repudiated English examples, arguing that as the gar- 
ments of a grown man would oppress or stifle a child, so 
"the Lawesof England, to take the body of them, are too 
unweldy for our weake condition.'* 2 But the freemen 
began to grow apprehensive If their judges were not 
bound by English statute, they were not bound at all, 
and the people naturally "thought their condition very 
unsafe, while so much power rested in the discretion of 
magistrates." 3 Israel Stoughton, deputy for Dorches- 
ter, wrote a paper in 1634 to prve that in the adminis- 
tration of justice the magistrates could do naught by 
their own wills, "but they must eie and respect generall 
courts, which by patent consist of the whole company of 
freemen/' 4 His booklet aroused the ire of Winthrop, 
who caused him to be suspended from public office for 
three years, but the cause for which Stoughton argued 
was, in an English community, irresistible. The magis- 
trates evaded codifying the laws as long as they could, 
but by 1641 Nathaniel Ward's Body of Liberties was 
adopted, and thereafter the government was bound to 
respect not merely "ye Lawes of God" and "ye patent," 
but also "ye fundamentall lawes & liberties established 
in ye commonwealth." s 

i. Ibid., p. 393. 2. Winslow, New-England^ Salamander^ p. 23. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, I, 323; cf. p. 151. 

4. Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc. y LVIII, 455. 

5. Massachusetts Records, n, 95. 


As long as the contest between the magistrates and 
the freemen was purely political, as long as the matters 
in dispute had to be settled upon bare constitutional 
grounds, the magistrates were apt to wage a losing fight. 
However clever they were, they could not by mere 
secular weapons overcome prejudices rooted in cen- 
turies of experience. Certainly they made the effort to 
do so. They took advantage of every opportunity. 
They were unable to deny that they were perennially 
bound by the terms of the charter, and they were un- 
able to withstand the citizens' demand to know pre- 
cisely by what laws Englishmen were governed; but in 
the conception of social compact they did see a small 
chance to exercise their ability as casuists and to inter- 
pret one of the fundamental laws to their own advan- 
tage. What the magistrates attempted to do with this 
theory came to light most clearly in the stand which 
Winthrop took against Harry Vane in 1637. During the 
hysteria of the Antinomian affair, the Court passed an 
order that no stranger should be offered hospitality 
until he had been approved by two of the magistrates. 
Vane called this tyranny, and as usual Winthrop was 
spokesman for the defense. 

The first consideration, Winthrop said, was what con- 
stituted a state. He conceived it to be "the consent of a 
certaine companie of people, to cohabite together, under 
one government for their mutual safety and welfare/* 
Otherwise no government could ever come into being: 

It is clearly agreed, by all, that the care of safety and wellfare was 
the original cause or occasion of common weales and of many fami- 
lyes subjecting themselves to rulers and laws; for no man hath law- 


full power over another, but by birth or consent, so likewise, by the 
law of proprietye, no man can have just interest in that which be- 
longeth to another, without his consent. 

Now if Massachusetts was such a corporate society, she 
had a right to admit whomsoever she pleased, and con- 
versely, "we may lawfully refuse to receive such whose 
dispositions suite not with ours." No one denied this 
privilege to the churches; "why then should the com- 
mon weale be denied the like liberty?" * 

Vane at once perceived the drift of this argument. If 
the magistrates could view the Massachusetts colony as 
an independent corporate society, and if they could sub- 
ordinate the conception of binding, fundamental law to 
that of a covenanted purpose, they would then be in a 
position to insist that the social compact be interpreted 
according to their own notions. Settlers would be con- 
stantly surprised to learn that by their very participa- 
tion in the colony, they had "implicitly" taken a cove- 
nant to uphold whatever the magistrates took it into 
their heads to declare should be upheld. Vane, therefore, 
took issue with Winthrop upon the basic position. Mas- 
sachusetts, he declared, was not built upon a compact; it 
was founded first upon the Bible, and then "upon the 
grante also of our Soveraigne." The government could 
be only such a one as Christ would allow and as "the 
grante requires and permitts and in that manner and 
forme as it prescribes." Winthrop's reasons, "taken 
from the nature of a common-wealth, not founded upon 

i. All the documents in this controversy are found in Thomas Hutchinson, 
A Collection of Papers Relating to the History oj Massachusetts Bay, I, 79- 


Christ, nor by his Majestyes charters/' did not apply 
here, and "must needs fall to the ground. " The com- 
monwealth could only proceed as it had been authorized 
by God or King; it could not allow important matters to 
depend "upon such unlimited and unsafe a rule, as the 
will and discretion of men." Of course the colony could 
exclude proved undesirables, but it could do so only by 
concrete law and trial by jury; it could not pronounce 
sentence through "the illimited consent or dissent of 
magistrates/* The analogy to the churches Vane dis- 
missed by declaring that the churches did have a funda- 
mental law, that they did not "receive or rejecte at their 
discretions . . . but at the discretion of Christ/' The eld- 
ers themselves often admitted this when they affirmed 
that the churches' power was purely "ministerial." The 
State should copy them, using its charter for a guide 
as the churches used Scripture. Otherwise, to give the 
magistrates power on the basis of some vague social 
theory "setts down no rule" for them, and was a 
tyranny, quite of a piece with the unauthorized taxa- 
tion of a Stuart monarch. 

Vane's paper is an epitome of the whole political 
temper which the magistrates in Massachusetts had set 
themselves to quieting. Winthrop's reply furnishes us 
with another tribute to the ingenuity of those who had 
learned their logic from William Ames. It was a clever 
attempt to reconcile the theory of constitutional limita- 
tion with that discretionary exercise of executive power 
which he felt was essential to a respectable state. There 
was, he hastened to declare, no reason why the laws of 
the Bible and the charter could not be the basis of a 


state which owed its existence to a compact. Vane's 
approach seemed to him limited; his own description of a 
state had been given in general, philosophic terms which 
Vane had not appreciated. "The definition or descrip- 
tion of the genus may be applyed to all the species, re- 
serving the specificall differences/' Among these latter 
were both the charter and the religion; the patent was 
only an accidental circumstance, not the essence; the 
society came into being not when the charter was 
granted, but when, in order 

to cohabite in the Massachusetts and under the government set up 
among us by his Majesty's patent or grant for our mutual safety and 
welffare, we agreed to walke according to the rules of the gospel!. 
And thus you have both a Christian common weale and the same 
founded upon the patent, and both included within my description. 

The commonwealth itself was the reality; both its 
charter and its Christianity were only the language in 
which its particular compact had been enunciated. 

If, to begin with, the corporate society had expressed 
its will by adopting the form of government which hap- 
pened to be described in the patent, then it could con- 
tinue to dictate its desires as it saw fit; and what more 
rational than that it should express itself through the 
magistrates, who by their very offices represented the 
whole society? Vane's distinction between "a consent 
regulated, and a vast and illimited consent" was there- 
fore "frivilous discourse/' It was as though Vane came 
to borrow Winthrop's horse, and Winthrop refused him. 
"yet he may take him, because my dissent is unlawful 
... If this speed well, the next conclusion will be an 
anarchic." However much Winthrop had ever protested 


against royal absolutism, when he had assumed the task 
of government he, like the King, began to see in the 
resort to fundamental law a dangerous device whereby 
subordinates could find a way to appeal over the heads 
of their lawful superiors and to indulge their corrupt 
desires in the name of some easily fabricated inalienable 
right. According to his theology, man, perceiving such 
an opportunity, would surely abuse it. 

As for Christ and not men determining in the 
churches, Winthrop called Vane's attention to the fact 
that Congregational theory recognized that the voice of 
God could be expressed only through the men composing 
the congregation, and that even they should be ruled. 
"Did he never heare, that our practise is, that none are 
propounded to the congregation, except they be first 
allowed by the elders, and is not this to admitt or reject 
by discretion ?" In like manner the fundamental law in 
the State could not be administered "otherwise than as 
it is dispensed in the ministry of men/' Since the exer- 
cise of authority had to be committed to some person, 
"to whom may it more properly than to the fathers of 
the common wealth ? " The truth of the matter was that 
these fathers were sufficiently limited. They were 
church members and had taken the church covenant; 
they were freemen and had taken the freeman's oath; 
they were magistrates and had taken the magistrates' 
oath. They were triply bound "to square all their pro- 
ceedings by the rule of Gods word." Therefore the 
magistrates could not be considered apart from the 
State; their every action was automatically an expres- 
sion of the will of the State, and hence of the will of God. 


"Whatsoever sentence the magistrate gives, according 
to these limitations, the judgment is the Lords, though 
he do it not by any rule particularly prescribed by civill 

Winthrop's argument was the peak of ingenuity, but 
the citizens found Vane's position more attractive, and 
the Body of Liberties signalized the magistrates* failure 
to retain the full discretionary powers for which Win- 
throp pleaded. In 1644 the deputies carried the assault 
still further, and objected to the magistrates' being left 
at liberty to vary penalties to suit their own conception 
of the gravity of offenses. The magistrates were angry, 
but they and the reverend elders once more bowed to the 
political wisdom of the race, and admitted that fixed 
penalties ought to be prescribed wherever possible. In 
the political sphere limitation by the fundamental law 
meant something the magistrates were compelled to 
respect. To this extent, then, we may recognize that 
they had no easy time of it, as did the clergy. 

But politics in Massachusetts were the lesser half of 
life. The magistrates had other strings to their bow. If 
they were balked by English political traditions, they 
found succor in Puritan political principles. The as- 
sistants were not able to run the government with as 
unhampered a hand as they might have wished, but 
they were able to mould the commonwealth with the 
assistance of their clerical colleagues. It was to the co- 
operation of the Church that the Massachusetts leaders 
owed their final triumph. Though they lost important 
points in the constitutional struggle, they gained even 
more strategic ones by employing spiritual auxiliaries, 


whom they were then able to repay by contributing 
their share to the establishment of a uniform orthodoxy, 
such a one as had hovered for years before all Puritan 

The partnership of State and Church operated in 
Massachusetts precisely as Puritans had expected it 
would where a government could be induced to accept 
the qualified supremacy. The Puritan plea for distinct 
yet cooperating departments was thoroughly vindi- 
cated. Jacob had written that Church and State were 
"distinct and cleerlie severed the one from the other: 
albiet each doth ayd & succour the other/' l Davenport 
continued in the same strain: the two were not to be 

set in opposition as contraries that one should destroy the other, but 
as coordinate States, in the same place reaching forth help mutually 
each to other, for the welfare of both, according to God. 

The two realms were not to be confused, 

either by giving the Spiritual Power, which is proper to the Church, 
into the hand of the Civil Magistrate ... or By giving Civil Power 
to Church-Officers, who are called to attend onely to Spiritual mat- 
ters, and the things of God. 2 

Cotton even declared that for a magistrate to follow 
uncritically any mistaken advice of the clergy would be 
for him to make a "beast" of the church itself. 3 The 
two agents did not often overstep the limits of their re- 
spective jurisdictions. "The Magistrates and Church 
leaders/' said Lechford, "labour for a just and equall 
correspondance in jurisdictions, not to intrench one on 

i. Jacob, Reasons taken out of Gods Word^ p. 16. 

1. Davenport, A Discourse about Civil Government^ pp. 7, 8. 

3. Cotton, An Exposition upon the Thirteenth Chapter oj the Revelation , p. 18. 


the other/' x During the Antinomian affair the Court 
passed a law requiring excommunicated persons to be 
dealt with in a civil way within six months of their sen- 
tence, but the clergy caused its repeal. Cotton con- 
demned it: 

It is dangerous to bring civill authority immediately upon the 
Churches censure. ... It is good to have these two States so joyned 
together, that the simplicity of the church may be maintained and 
upheld, and strengthened by the civill state according to God, but 
not by any simplicity further then according to the word. 2 

In 1639 the Court tried to reduce the number of mid- 
week services, which seamed to be cutting into work- 
ing hours, but gave over the attempt as soon as the 
elders remonstrated. 3 The magistrates were annoyed 
once more during the period of the Civil Wars because 
the clergy called for repeated days of humiliation; still 
" they would not contend with the elders about it, but 
left the churches to their liberty." 4 But when the 
clergy trespassed upon the political bailiwick, the magis- 
trates did not hesitate to object. Some of the Boston 
congregation moved to censure Winthrop for his treat- 
ment of their Antinomian brethren, but he promptly in- 
formed them that "a church hath not power to call any 
civill Magistrate to give account of his juditiall pro- 
ceedings in any court of Justice." s In 1640 certain 
elders wanted the Court to forbear proceeding against 
any politically offending church member until he could 
be dealt with in a church way, but the magistrates in- 

i. Plain Dealing, p. 35. 2. Cotton, op. /., p. 30. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, I, 326-327. 

4. /^W.,n, 91. 

5. Ibid., I, 256; Robert C. Winthrop, op. "/., n, 211. 


dignantly refused to agree; and when a Boston constable 
acted on the assumption that the elders had won their 
case, he was promptly committed. 1 At times the elders' 
propensity for putting their fingers into political pies 
seems to have become a bit exasperating. Winthrop 
complained that in the disputes of 1644 the elders did no 
good office " through their misapprehensions both of the 
intentions of the magistrates, and also of the matters 
themselves, being affairs of state, which did not belong 
to their calling/' * But in the main the partnership 
operated without friction, and the magistrates would 
have put up with even more serious clerical officiousness 
in order to preserve the relationship. Greater things 
were at stake, because as Winthrop unblushingly ad- 

The elders had great power in the people's hearts, which was need- 
ful to be upheld, lest the people should break their bonds through 
abuse of liberty, which divers, having surfeited of, were very for- 
ward to incite others to raise mutinies and foment dangerous and 
groundless jealousies of the magistrates, which the wisdom and care 
of the elders did still prevail against; and indeed the people them- 
selves, generally, through the churches, were of that understanding 
and moderation, as they would easily be guided in their way by any 
rule from scripture or sound reason. 3 

Within the first year of the experiment, the magis- 
trates hit upon a device which practically guaranteed 
that the " people " should become amenable to the rules 
of Scripture and sound reason. In the spring of 1631, 
when the assistants were casting about for some means 
of improving upon the inadequate charter, one hundred 

I. Winthrop, Journal, u, 1 5, 40. 2. 7^iW.,p. 190. 

3. Ibid., i, 326-327. 


and eight Englishmen confronted them with an ominous 
petition for citizenship. If the community was to hang 
together, these men could not be denied, and yet for the 
assistants to throw open the franchise indiscriminately 
could only spell the eventual passing of their control. 
The leaders urgently required some basis for selection 
which would at once insure the desired security and yet 
not be repulsive to the populace. At that moment they 
beheld a hitherto unsuspected utility in the Congrega- 
tional principle of restricted membership. The petition- 
ers were admitted regardless of their ecclesiastical affil- 
iations, but "to the end the body of commons may be 
presued of honest & good men/' the magistrates decreed 
"that for time to come noe man shalbe admitted to the 
freedome of this body polliticke, but such as are mem- 
bers of some of the churches within the lymitts of the 
same/' x When the deputies enacted their constitutional 
revolution in 1634, they had already become so well 
schooled to viewing church members as the only as- 
suredly honest and good men that though they over- 
turned all the other presumptuous legislation of the 
assistants, they left the religious qualification of the 
electorate untouched. Thus at the outset the magis- 
trates more than halved the problem of domestic rule, 
and transformed the republican government of the 
charter into a sort of religious soviet. Even a picked 
body of freemen offered difficulties, but they were at 
least Congregationalists, and therefore had some glim- 
mering of what the leaders aimed at. If their political 
obstinacy could not be overcome in the council chamber, 

I. Massachusetts Records , I, 87. 


it could be softened in the meeting-house. We can, con- 
sequently, thoroughly understand why the churches 
were compelled to insist more and more upon the re- 
stricted membership, however much the exclusion failed 
to accomplish all the spiritual purposes for which it had 
been designed, and also, why they were driven to devise 
some excuse for regarding the unconverted children of 
substantial citizens as working members. The question 
before the churches was no longer one of approximating 
the make-up of the invisible Church; it was one of con- 
trolling the Massachusetts electorate. "Whereas the 
way of God hath alwayes beene to gather his Churches 
out of the world; now the world, or civill state, must be 
raised out of the churches/' r In 1636 Lords Saye and 
Brooke toyed with the notion of migrating, and they 
asked whether such "gentlemen" as they might bring 
with them could be admitted to citizenship. Cotton 
wrote the official response, wherein he paid the respects 
of the colony to rank and title, but he could promise no 
exception to the qualified franchise. He denied that this 
provision in any way entailed the subversion of the 
State to the Church, for the magistrates were not chosen 
by the Church, "nor doe governe by directions from the 
church, but by civill lawes ... in all which, the church 
(as the church) hath nothing to do: onely, it prepareth 
fitt instruments both to rule, and to choose rulers/* 
Therefore, he could conscientiously conclude the quali- 
fication "to be a divine ordinance/' 2 Davenport, who 
rigorously applied the ordinance to his colony at New 

1. Hutchinson, A Collection of Papers, i, 101. 

2. Hutchinson, The History of the Colony oj Massachusetts Bay, I, 493-497. 


Haven, defended it at length in his Discourse about Civil 
Government. " Members fitly chosen out of the Church/' 
he declared, were the best material for citizenship in a 
religious commonwealth, because they were bound 
"unto all Faithfulness in all things to God and man." 
Unfortunately, "the like assurance cannot be had in any 
other way, if this course be neglected." J The magis- 
trates and clergy frequently warned the freemen against 
permitting zeal for their own constitutional liberties to 
betray them into championing the cause of the unfran- 
chised. Shepard preached to the General Court of 1638 
in a hortatory mood: 

Maintayne the privilege to death. Whomsoeuer you shall choose 
let him be one from among yourselues; a member of some church; 
he yt is shut out of the fellowship of churches will be an enemy vnto 
the strictnes of churches; & ruine church you ruine state; & Christ 
also. 2 

The advantage of a qualified electorate, according to 
Davenport, was that since it meant that both electors 
and elected were in covenant with God, then "men of 
God are consulted with in all hard cases and matters of 
Religion." 3 That the State should take counsel of the 
clergy had, as we have noted, been definitely advocated 
by the Puritans. Yet they had hardly intended that 
appeals should be made in other than purely religious 
affairs. But when a state had actually assumed the 
Bible as its fundamental law, there soon appeared to be 
very few occasions upon which that book had nothing to 
say. In 1632 Winthrop and Dudley quarreled, and the 

1. Davenport, A Discourse about Civil Government, pp. 12, 22. 

2. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xxiv, 366. 

3. Davenport, op. cit. y p. 15. 


ministers were asked to interpose. Their "advice/* sup- 
ported by scriptural citation, healed the breach. 1 In the 
next year a French attempt at Fort Royal threatened 
the colony; before adopting a policy the Court con- 
sulted with the elders to see if by any chance the Lord 
had foreseen such an emergency. It seemed that he had, 2 
and thereafter all contingencies, military and diplomatic 
as well as ecclesiastical, were met in the same manner. 
"The rulers of the people/' Cotton preached in 1637, 
"should consult with the ministers of the churches upon 
occassion of any war to be undertaken, and any other 
weighty business, though the case should seem never so 
clear." 3 

By referring governmental questions to the elders the 
magistrates not only received direction from the Word 
of God; they soon discovered that by this means the 
deputies could be given such advice as would not be 
taken from themselves, advice always bolstered with 
unanswerable biblical demonstrations to which the 
citizens, being church members, could not object. If the 
election sermon which Shepard preached in 1638 is, as I 
suppose, a sample of the political doctrine constantly 
inculcated by the elders, we may easily understand how 
they turned the balance of the constitutional struggle. 
You, the people, Shepard frankly delivered, are apt "to 
desire & accept of change of gOuernment," even though 
you have "the beste gouernment of god." You are in- 
herently corrupt, unstable, "apt to be led by colours 
like birds by glasses & larkes by lures, & golden pre- 

1 . Winthrop, Journal, I, 84-91. 

2. Ibid.,?. 97. 3. UM.,p. 231. 


tences which Innouators euer haue." You should there- 
fore understand that innovators of any sort, in Church 
or State, are taking advantage of you; " if they can come 
in by your faction, you will then find them to be indeed 
brambles; ambitious, base, & bloody/' z This was no 
mere idle oratory. Good Christians could not demur 
when the ministers all agreed that the will of Christ had 
such and such political implications. In 1634 ^e citizens 
of Newtown petitioned for permission to remove to Con- 
necticut. A majority of the deputies were favorable, 
but a majority of the magistrates were not, and they 
claimed that by the charter and the laws of God they 
possessed a negative voice. Once again the leaders con- 
fronted a crisis. In those instances in which the deputies 
gained their way, the victories had no greater effect than 
to bind the whole State to a more meticulous observa- 
tion of some basic law; in this case, however, a triumph 
of the deputies would have meant that by numerically 
dominating a uni-cameral legislature they could prac- 
tically shoulder the assistants out of the government. 
Before the next Court convened, the magistrates, "con- 
sidering how dangerous it might be to the common- 
wealth, if they should not keep that strength to balance 
the greater number of the deputies," once more pressed 
John Cotton into service. He preached at the opening 
session, explaining the divine philosophy of Congrega- 
tional rule, the Calvinistic theory of "mixed govern- 
ment/' and applying it conclusively to the case in hand: 
He laid down the nature or strength ... of the magistracy, 
ministry, and people; viz the strength of the magistracy to be 

I. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xxiv, 362-364. 


their authority; of the people, their liberty; and of the ministry their 
purity; and showed how all of these had a negative voice, etc., and 
that yet the ultimate resolution, etc., ought to be in the whole body 
of the people. 

"Mr. Cotton/* Hubbard tells us, "had such an in- 
sinuating and melting way in his preaching, that he 
would usually carry his very adversary captive after the 
triumphant chariot of his rhetoric/' r He had failed to 
captivate the deputies when he had attempted to per- 
suade them that Winthrop had a divine right to reelec- 
tion, because they then stood upon good constitutional 
grounds; but when their case was not so well founded, 
and when he assured them he was the last person in the 
world to deny the peoples' "duty and right to maintain 
their true liberties against any unjust violence," then his 
pontifical rendering of the Word was effective. "It 
pleased the Lord so to assist him," and the magistrates 
retained their veto. 2 

Once again, however, the issue came up. In 1643, 
when the magistrates refused judgment to Goody Sher- 
man, the people cried out upon the negative voice. The 
magistrates defended it with "many arguments from 
scripture, reason, and common practice"; they pointed 
out that it was "of great concernment, even to the very 
frame of our government." To all this the deputies, 
activated by a "democratical spirit," paid no heed. 
Then the magistrates played their trump card: they 
offered to accept the arbitration of the elders. Concern- 
ing the motive Winthrop is delightfully frank: "It was 

1. Mass. Hist. Soc. y Coll., Series 2, v, 175. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 133-134. 


the magistrates' only care to gain time, that so the 
peoples' heat might be abated, for then they knew they 
would hear reason, and that the advice of the elders 
might be interposed/' As might have been expected, the 
elders only rehearsed Cotton's arguments; they proved 
the superiority of a " mixed forme of Government . . . 
from scripture, Reason, and Experience," and they 
quoted Calvin, "famous both for diuinity and law." 
Enlightened by these learned disquisitions, a better in- 
formed people "let the case fall." l 

They could, indeed, do nothing else. The com- 
bination of magistrates and ministers dominated the 
restricted horizon of the frontier community. As Win- 
throp, in another of his candid moments, succinctly 
expressed it, "the Ministers haue great power with the 
people, whereby throughe the good correspondency be- 
tween the Magistrates & them, they are the more easyly 
gouerned." 2 The magistrates alone might be opposed, 
but the magistrates in correspondency with the elders, 
furnished with a bristling array of biblical citations, 
were irresistible. Thus with the political regime suffi- 
ciently intrenched, the State was ready to play the part 
assigned to it in Puritan theory, was prepared to repay 
the clergy by taking over the protection of orthodoxy 
and the enforcement of uniformity. 

The magistrates had displayed an early disposition to 
do their share, but in the still undeveloped condition of 
the church system they were not certain just how to go 
about it. In 1635 the Court, confronted with the radical 

I. Ibid., II, 66, 120-121; Massachusetts Records, n, 91-94; Mass. Hist. Soc., 
Proc., XLVI, 276-285. 2. Robert C. Winthrop, op. cit., n, 460. 


assertions of Roger Williams, requested the elders to 
frame "one vniforme order of dissipline in the churches" 
and then to decide "how farr the magistrates are bound 
to interpose for the preservation of that vniformity." l 
The clerical opinion seemed to be that the time was not 
yet ripe for publishing an official platform, but a few of 
the ministers (Cotton later insisted he was not one of 
them) drew up a tentative statement of principle on the 
subject of uniformity. 2 The major part of this docu- 
ment was a reiteration of the conventional Puritan doc- 
trine that civil government, in its dealing with the 
Church, was limited by the Word of God to a concern 
with only "outward order, as in Rites & Ceremonies for 
uniformities sake," and that its means should remain 
purely political. 3 But they hazarded the suggestion that 
the magistrate should allow the churches to assemble in 
synods, "as the meanes appointed by God, whereby he 
may mediately reform matters amisse in Churches, 
which immediately he cannot nor ought not to do/' 4 
Consociation proved a complete success as an instru- 
ment of discipline both in the Williams episode and in 
the Hutchinson affair, and the moral of these events was 
not lost upon the leaders. Cotton saw in the events of 
1637 an ideal illustration of the partnership of Church 
and State: 

The Neighbour Churches . . . took a right course (according to 
the principles of the Independent Government) to gather into a 

1. Massachusetts Records, i, 142. 

2. Samuel L. Caldwell, Preface to Williams, 'The Bloudy 'Tenent of Persecu- 
tion, p. viii. 

3. Quoted in Williams, 'The Bloudy Tenent oj Persecution , pp. 261, 247-248, 
226. 4. Ibid. t p. 391. 


Synod with the consent of the civlll Magistrates: and in the Synod 
to agitate, convince and condemne the Errors, and the offensive 
carnages then stirring. Whereat the Magistrates being present, they 
saw just cause to proceed against the chief of those whom they con- 
ceived to have bred any civill disturbance: and the Churches saw 
cause to proceede against their Members, whom they found to bee 
broachers or maintainers of such heresies. 1 

Thereafter it became the accepted tenet in Massa- 
chusetts that the supreme magistrate should summon 
synods and strengthen their decisions "either by his 
meer Authoritative suffrage, assent, and testimony, (if 
the matter need no more) or by his authoritative Sanc- 
tion of it by Civill punishment, the nature of the offence 
so requiring/' 2 Yet all the time these decisions were 
supposed to be the fruit of friendly consultation and the 
synods were to impose nothing by force. Johnson, in one 
of his most charming pages, boasted that Presbyterian 
coercion would never be so effective as Congregational 
"brotherly love": 

Could your eyes but behold the efficacy of loving counsell in the 
Communion of congregationall Churches . . . you would never 
stand for Classicall injunctions any more. . . . Verily its more uni- 
versall then the Papall power. . . . Yea, and it may be added, be- 
cause civill Government is like to turn nurse. 3 

Lechford properly retorted that even if the determina- 
tions of a synod were reached "by way of love, and 
friendly advice," 

Were not the counselled bound to receive good counsell? If they 
would not receive it, was not the Magistrate ready to assist,, and in a 
manner ready, according to duty, to enforce peace and obedience? 4 

I. The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, pt. I, p. 84. 

1. Cotton, The Result of the Synod, p. 65. 

3. The Wonder Working Providences, p. 105. 4. Plain Dealing, p. 127. 


But with the successful Synod of 1637 in mind, magis- 
trates and ministers could afford to ignore such com- 
ments. They saw nothing incongruous in a civil power 
" nursing " a people into orthodox uniformity, when the 
uniformity was precisely that which Christ had com- 

In the "Modell" of 1635, the program drawn up by 
certain of the elders in response to the request of the 
Court, it was stated briefly that one aspect of the magis- 
trate's duty involved the forbidding of idolatrous and 
corrupt assemblies. 1 This remark seemed to insinuate 
that if the government had been on its toes a little earlier 
it could have prevented Salem from calling Williams 
in the first place. The authorities now decided to 
take official measures which would prevent the recur- 
rence of any such situation. In March, 1636, having 
found "by sad experience" that much trouble had been 
caused both "the church & civill state by the officers & 
members of some churches, which haue bene gathered 
... in an vndue manner, & not with such publique ap- 
probation as were meete," the Court ordered that there- 
after all companies about to join in church fellowship 
should beforehand notify not only the neighboring 
elders but also the magistrates, "& haue their approba- 
tion herein/' 2 Thus when five or six men of Saugus, at 
the instigation of the troublesome Mr. Batchellor, at- 
tempted to establish a second congregation there, the 
church appealed to the government; the magistrates, 
"forseeing the distraction which was like to come by 
this course/' forbade Batchellor to proceed until the 

i. Williams, op. '/., p. 278. 2. Massachusetts Records^ I, 168. 


elders could talk to him. When he rebelled, "the mar- 
shall was sent to fetch him/' l 

Thereafter, whenever the churches assembled, either 
at the covenanting of new societies or at the election of 
new ministers, some or all of the magistrates were pres- 
ent. Often, as at Weymouth in 1644, the magistrates 
and visiting elders, " finding upon trial, that the persons 
appointed were not fit for foundation stones, they ad- 
vised them not to proceed/' which, naturally, "they 
obeyed." 2 The Dedham congregation, fresh from Eng- 
land in 1638, feared that this practice would infringe the 
Christian liberty they had sought in the wilderness, but 
the officials at once explained that the law of 1636 did 
not imply that a church privately gathered was not a 
true church, 

but ye scope was this, yt if any people of unsound judgment or 
eroneous way, etc. . . . should privately sett up churches amongst 
them ye commonwealth would not so approve them as to communi- 
cate yt freedome & other priviledges unto them which yei did unto 
others or protect them in ther government if they saw ther way 
dangerous to the publike peace. 3 

Congregational peoples did indeed secure in America a 
" liberty " to follow Christ according to his laws; but 
they certainly secured no liberty to follow him in any 
other fashion. 

English Congregationalists had glibly assumed that 
though the masses would be excluded from church 
membership, they could still be expected to attend 

1. Winthrop, Journal, I, 169. 

2. Ibid.) n, 179. 

3. 'The Records of Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths . . . in the Town oj Ded- 
ham, pp. 9-10. 


church services. But it is not surprising to find that 
many who were excluded on the assumption that they 
were damned should not have been enthusiastic about 
listening to a weekly description of their plight. In the 
" Model 1" of 1635 the ministers took occasion to remind 
the Court that the civil magistrate had a legitimate 
power " to compell all men within his grant, to heare the 
Word, for hearing the Word of God is a duty which the 
light of Nature leadeth even Heathens to." * The Court 
responded at once, and declared that since it had been 
found "that dyvers persons within this jurisdiction doe 
vsually absent themselues from church meeteings vpon 
the Lords day/* hereafter any two magistrates should 
have power to punish "all misdemeaners of that kinde 
committed by any inhabitant." 2 Those without the 
churches, boasted the Cambridge Platform, are "invited 
by counsel" to come to meeting, "& required by whole- 
some lawes to attend." 3 

This much the government could do and still remain 
well within the Congregational tradition. But it also 
seemed reasonable that the reprobates should pay for 
the invaluable privilege of witnessing Chrises ordi- 
nances. Here, however, was a difficult problem, for 
the polity had clearly intended that contribution, like 
profession, should be voluntary. As Jacob emphatically 
put it, 

For preserving due freedome in the Congregation, sincerity in 
Religion, and sanctity in the whole stock, the Congregations volun- 
tary & conscionable contribution for their Pastors sustenance, and 

I. Williams, op. cit., p. 279. 2. Massachusetts Records , I, 140. 

3. Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 200. 


maintenance is doubtless the safest, and most approved, nay it 
seemeth, the onely way. 1 

But it had been one thing for the ministers to preach 
voluntary payment when they were attacking the tithes 
exacted by a hostile Establishment, and another to do so 
when they expected livelihood. It speedily became ap- 
parent that "many of those who are freemen, nor mem- 
bers of any church, do take advantage thereby to with- 
draw their helpe in such voluntary contributions as are 
in vse " ; 2 the godly began to feel that " the burthen grew 
too hevy upon church members/' 3 The ministers who 
wrote the "Modell" of 1635 were already concerned 
about the problem, and ventured to suggest to the Court 
that maintenance of the churches should arise "from all 
those who are ordinarily taught thereby "; they were 
willing to conclude that "hence it is the dutie of the 
Civill Magistrate to contend with the people . . . who 
doe neglect and forsake the due maintenance of the 
Church of God, and to command them to give such por- 
tions for the maintenance of Church officers, as the 
Gospell commandeth." 4 The Court, which had at once 
adopted the "Modell's" suggestion on the oversight of 
new churches, was yet unwilling to embark upon this de- 
parture from the pristine theory without more warrant 
from the clergy than a private memorandum. It there- 
fore made a point of asking the Synod of 1637 what 
should be done, but the elders did not wish to take the 
decision upon themselves, "lest it should be said that 

1. Jacob, A Confession and Protestation , pp. 30, 32. 

2. Massachusetts Records, i, 240. 

3. Hutchinson, A Collection of Papers, n, 6-7; cf. Magnalia, n, 491. 

4. Williams, op. cit. y pp. 291-292. 


this assembly was gathered for their private advan- 
tage/' J The next General Court took the hint, and upon 
its own initiative ordered that thereafter such persons 
as did not freely and willingly contribute to churches 
"shalbee compelled thereto by assessment & distress to 
bee levied by the cunstable, or other officer of the towne, 
as in other cases/' 2 Nothing more strikingly signalizes 
the transformation of the English heterodoxy into the 
New England orthodoxy than this complete reversal of 
the original position. Jacob's statement makes an odd 
contrast to the dictum of the Cambridge Platform. " All 
that are taught in the word/' that document reads, 
should contribute to the church, and if, "through the 
corruption of men," the church does not obtain suffi- 
cient revenue, then "the magistrate is to see [that the] 
ministry be duely provided for." 3 

These various laws were obviously specific applica- 
tions of contemporary conceptions of supremacy and 
uniformity. The comparatively easy creation of an es- 
tablished order in New England is explicable only when 
we understand how the people had been fully prepared 
to accept it. When elder Browne caused a flurry at 
Watertown in 1632, and Winthrop, Dudley, and Nowell 
came up from Boston to offer their mediation, they 
asked the Watertown congregation whether they were 
to figure as members of ^neighboring church or as magis- 
trates, "their assistance being desired." 4 The congrega- 
tion decided on the first role, but that the other was 
considered ready for use at this early date is extremely 

1. Winthrop, Journal, i, 235; Massachusetts Records, i, 240. 

2. Ibid. 3. Chap, xi, par. 4. 4- Winthrop, Journal, I, 71. 


significant. After the Hutchinson affair the leaders were 
resolved that even though a definite platform could not 
be formulated, they should be empowered to act with a 
free hand whenever necessary. The deputies refused to 
permit the assistants a discretionary power in purely 
civil or criminal matters, but in the light of their reli- 
gious training they could not object to giving officials a 
large freedom in dealing with religious offenses. Thus, at 
the trial of Wheelwright, the Court and elders agreed 
that though doubtful opinions should be referred to the 
church for judgment, "in some cases of religious na- 
tures, as manifest heresie, notorious blasphemy, etc., 
the Civill power may proceed Ecclisia inconsulta" l 
With that prerogative secured, the magistrates were 
assured of the success of their experiment. Whatever 
they lost in the political contest did not ruin their pres- 
tige; it only made them observe certain legal forms. 
But any serious threat to their power was bound to have 
religious ramifications. If on that ground they could 
lead the action against offenders, either by themselves or 
better still with the aid of the elders, then they could 
accomplish that for which they had crossed the ocean. 
At this point it may be worth noting, in view of the 
immense abuse that has been heaped upon the righteous 
heads of the Massachusetts leaders, that the officials 
were expected to exercise their ecclesiastical powers in 
accordance with what had been the most enlightened 
conceptions at the time they left England. The great 
principles which Puritans had invoked against the high- 
handed ecclesiastical courts were not forgotten. The 

I. Ibid. y p. 210; Antinomianism in Massachusetts Eay y p. 192. 


government of the colony could not employ "external 
violent means, as by Oathes ex officio, close Imprison- 
ments, wracks, Strappadoes, and other preposterous 
wayes of Inquisition/' Neither could it punish "a mere 
supposed Corruption in Religion, but that which is so 
really, and manifestly appearing from grounds of the 
Word/' J The State claimed no surveillance over pri- 
vate opinions; it professed to deal only with the " out- 
ward man/' when "either his mentall errours or hearts 
lust breake out into open expression and view, and be- 
come scandalous and spreading." 2 But magistrates in a 
biblical commonwealth could freely admit such qualifi- 
cation upon their procedure without sacrificing an iota 
of their power. They applied rules which Cotton de- 
clared were "so fundamentall, and palpable" that any- 
one who persisted in an offense after one or two admoni- 
tions thereby condemned himself. 3 The magistrates, 
said Cobbet, "do restrain and punish that only, which 
if others had any conscience, (as we say) they would 
refrain from." 4 Heresy, in other words, was understood 
to be as concrete a crime as murder, and though the 
guilty one refused to recognize his offense as such, so- 
ciety nevertheless had a right to judge him. Just as in 
the Church the clergy themselves determined when an 
obstinate heretic deserved excommunication, so, when 
the magistrates dealt with him, they too could legiti- 
mately decide at what point they should cease persuad- 
ing and deliver a just sentence. 

i. Thomas Cobbet, 'The Civil Magistrates Power In matters of Religion, 
pp. 15, 14. 2. Cotton, The Result of a Synod, pp. 15-16. 

3. Cotton, The Eloudy Tenent Washed, pp. 9, 101. 

4. Cobbet, op. cit.y p. 37. 


The civill Magistrate is to informe and convince, and not to pro- 
ceed suddenly till all just means are used to leave him convinced, of 
which it is more meet for the Magistrate than for the offending per- 
son to judge, who it may be will never say he is convinced. 1 

Thus it was that in Massachusetts the political theory 
of English Puritanism was at last vindicated. We could 
multiply citations from the colonial apologists indefi- 
nitely; the only difference between them and such pas- 
sages as we have quoted from English Puritans would be 
a difference in tense and mood. English dissenters had 
told what ought to be; the New Englanders described 
what was. They had successfully limited the magistrate 
by the Word; he did not attempt to impose whatever 
form of worship he pleased, "as Erastus and some others 
since him affirm/* 2 but he accepted that which God had 
decreed. In dubious matters he called for "the counsell 
of the churches/' and considered himself "bound in con- 
science to follow what they according to God do clear up 
to be his mind/' 3 But this qualification had proved 
itself no hindrance to the enforcement of uniformity; 
the civil government enjoyed an incontestable suprem- 
acy: "the head of the Church under Christ is the Civill 
Magistrate/' 4 Therefore Hooker could argue that In- 
dependency was an utter misnomer for Congregational- 
ism, at least in New England, for certainly no undue 
freedom was permitted a particular church when it was 

subject unto, and under the supreme power politicke in the place 
where it is; so that the Magistrate hath a coactive power to compel the 
Church to execute the ordinances of Christ, according to the order 

1. Cotton, 'The Result of a Synod, p. 7. 

2. Cobbet, op. cit. y p. 51. 3- Ibid.^. 67. 
4. Cotton, A Brieje Exposition of . . . Canticles, p. 210. 


and rules of Christ . . . and in case she swerves from her rule, by a 
strong hand to constraine her to keepe it. 1 

Rathband thought that in New England a magistrate 
was held to have nothing to do with matters of religion, 
but Weld disabused him at once: " All the Churches with 
us doe abhorre that vile opinion." 2 Much to the con- 
trary, they expected him to be an active participant in 
the religious sphere, "to draw on the people to holy 
duties, by all meanes he can, by his Proclamation, 
Lawes, and Examples." 3 "Zeal of God in sharp punish- 
ing of such like corruptions stood very well with Christs 
Dove like Spirit; none so meek as he, Yet none so zealous 
this way." 4 The noblest object of a magistrate's en- 
deavor was "that a right opinion and worship of God 
should be openly professed within the territories and 
jurisdiction of a State." It was his duty to study the 
Word, with the assistance of his synods, that he might 
"inquire and judge of professions and Religions, which is 
true, and ought to be maintained, which is false, and 
ought to be rejected." 5 The magistrate, concluded 

is a political Minister of God, in his civil way, and by his Civil 
means, of the subjects spiritual good; so he is to improve his Author- 
ity, that the liberty, purity, and peace of Gods own instituted wor- 
ship, and wayes, wherein their spiritual good, externally, doth much 
lye, be maintained and defended against all Infesting, infringing, 
Impugning or Impairing principles. 6 

It was, Cotton preached, only "a carnall and worldly, 
and indeed, an ungodly imagination" that would con- 

i. Hooker, Survey, pt. n, p. 80. i. Weld, An Answer to W. R. y p. 67. 

3. Cotton, op. df. y p. 21. 4. Cobbet, op. cit. y p. 42. 

5. Hooker, Survey, pt. iv, p. 57. 6. Cobbet, op. '/., p. 25. 


fine "the Magistrates charge, to the bodies, and goods of 
the Subiect," and would "exclude them from the care of 
their soules." l 

New England divines could afford to speak in confi- 
dent tones, for within a decade of the migration the col- 
ony did seem to be a success. Puritans had long been 
of the opinion that even in this world the elect would 
be rewarded, and Jacob had predicted that if a nation 
would only adopt the true polity, "God will crowne his 
owne worke, and blesse his owne ordinance, and sanctify 
his owne way." 2 Winthrop promised aboard the Arbella 
that a sign of God's favor would be prosperity. After the 
system had lasted out the Antinomian convulsion, what- 
ever else one might say about it, the indisputable fact 
remained that it worked. "Thus God delivered his 
people out of the snare of the Devil/' ejaculated pious 
old Roger Clap, "then had the churches rest, and were 
multiplied." 3 "God hath at once subdued the proud 
Pequats and the proud opinions that rose up in this 
Land." 4 Presbyterians only let themselves in for crush- 
ing rebukes when they insinuated that Congregational- 
ism would fail to secure uniformity. "For ought we 
know," said Richard Mather, "there is no materiall 
point, either in constitution, or government, wherein the 
Churches in TV. E. . . . do not observe the same course." 5 
When Rathband said that popular government in New 
England had proved a cause of schism, Weld promptly 
came back with: 

I. <The Eloudy Vencnt Washed, p. 68. 2. An Attestation, p. 154. 

3. Young, Chronicles of Massachusetts, p. 360. 

4. W. Hooke, New Englands Teares, p. 8. 

5. Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discvssed, p. 82. 


Blessed be God, that under that Government of ours (which you 
call or rather miscall Popular) the very neck of Schisms, and vile 
opinions, (brought to us from hence) was broken; When here 
amongst you where there is not such a Government, they walke bolt 
upright amongst you and crowe aloud. 1 

The moral of New England history by 1648 was simply, 
according to Cotton, the very point Congregationalism 
had tried to make in England, and failing there through 
no fault of its own, had set out to prove in America: 

That government, which by the blessing of Christ, doth safely, 
speedily, and effectually purge out such grievous and dangerous 
evills, as threaten the ruine of Church and State, that government 
is safely allowed, and justly and wisely established in any civill 
State. 2 

1. An Answer to W. R., p. 66. 

2. The Way oj the Congregational Churches Cleared^ pt. I, p. 84. 



FROM the standpoint of the English government, 
the most prominent fact about the New England 
Way was its independence. Gorges had prophesied 
that New Englanders would soon " wholly shake off the 
Royall lurisdiction of the Soveraigne Magistrate/* J and 
Laud's agent, Burdett, reported in 1639 that "it was not 
discipline that was so much aimed at, as sovereignty." 2 
Lechford, who had been in a position to know, informed 
the English world in 1641, 

They themselves say, that in the generall and quarter Courts, 
they have the power of Parliament, Kings Bench, Common Pleas, 
Chancery, High Commission, and Star-Chamber, and all other 
Courts of England, and in divers cases have exercised that power 
upon the King's Subjects there. 3 

These were facts Laud could not for ever disregard. 
In 1638 the Lords of the Council bestirred themselves 
once more, and wrote to Boston asking what had hap- 
pened to the charter which in 1634 they had wished to 
lay their hands on. Once more the General Court pro- 
crastinated. The comic interlude was played through 
again the next year, the Court simply pretending this 
time that it never received the Council's communica- 
tion. The test upon the colony would undoubtedly have 

1. Baxter, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, n, 60. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, I, 285, 300. 3. Plain Dealing, p. 63. 


come very shortly had it not been that " concernments 
of an higher nature intervening in that juncture of time, 
gave a supersedeas to that design and intendment." I 
On July 23, 1637, a woman known to fame as Jenny 
Geddes threw a three-legged stool at the Bishop of 
Edinburgh in the great Church of St. Giles; she missed 
the bishop, but she started a riot. Thereafter did Scot- 
land "so take up the king and council, that they had 
neither heart nor leisure to look after the affairs of New 
England/' 2 The First Bishops' War of 1639 demon- 
strated the bankruptcy of the Stuart absolutism, and 
when the King at last called for a Parliament in April, 
1640, there were portents aplenty. John Tinker wrote 
to Winthrop that in this year 

there are like to come but a small quantyty of passengers oiier . . . 
and the reason I conceiue to he the hopes of some reformation in 
England, by the intended parliament, the which cann hardly bee 
expected per judicious and wise men . . . but rather see troublesome 
times aproaching, both within and without the kingdome. 3 

Charles justified the apprehension of the wise by pro- 
roguing the Parliament within three weeks, after it gave 
unmistakable evidence of being more interested in the 
reformation of England than in the subjugation of 
Scotland. But with the complete fiasco of the Second 
Bishops' War even Charles realized the game was up. In 
November the Long Parliament began its momentous 

This collapse of Laud's regime meant that Puritanism 
was out in the open. The lid was off. Whatever that 

i. Hubbard, " General History of New England," Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., 

Series 2, v, 271. 2. Winthrop, journal, I, 271. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc. y Coll., Series 4, vn, 220. 


persistent movement really stood for was to be dem- 
onstrated at last. But though it was a foregone con- 
clusion that Parliament would attempt some sort of ref- 
ormation, that body nevertheless inserted in the Grand 
Remonstrance, amid a zealous arraignment of episcopal 
abuses, a significant protest: 

We do here declare that it is far from our purpose or desire to let 
loose the golden reins of discipline and government in the Church, to 
leave private persons or particular congregations to take up what 
form of Divine Service they please, for we hold it requisite that there 
should be through-out the whole realm a conformity to that order 
which the laws enjoin according to the Word of God. 1 

All parties to the dispute, at the beginning, were as thor- 
oughly given over to the assumptions of a state church 
and an enforced uniformity as Laud himself had been, 
and on that score saw eye to eye with Massachusetts. 

John Tinker and the wise men expressed dread in 1640 
because they foresaw a controversy between the King 
and the "Root and Branch" Puritans. However dis- 
couraging a prospect this had seemed, it had after all 
presented a simple dualism, with the issue clearly de- 
fined on each side. But in the course of a very short 
time, there began to appear intimations of yet a further 
division. Hitherto, Thomas Shepard said, it had been 
"doubted not but if the Prelates were downe, all would 
agree in one"; 2 but that canny Scotsman, Robert 
Baillie, coming to London in November of 1640, under- 
stood that Saye and Sele, with Brooke, in the Lords, and 
some leading men in the Commons, were supposed to be 

1. Gardiner, The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, p. 229. 

2. Shepard and Allin, A Defence of the Answer, p. 16. 


inclined to the Separatists. He feared for a moment that 
they "would divide from the Presbyterians, and so 
weaken the party opposite to bishops/' However, 
he did not expect them to muster any considerable 
strength, and he predicted that they would be silent, 
"upon hope either of satisfaction when we get more 
leisure, or of toleration, on their good and peaceable 
behaviour/' x But he little reckoned how far the teach- 
ings of Ames and Bradshaw had permeated English 
Puritanism. Several London ministers, aware of the 
fatal cleavage, wrote to the Scottish Assembly on July 
12, 1641, saying that since God had "raised our hopes 
of removing this yoke of Episcopacy . . . sundry other 
forms of Church-government are by sundry sorts of 
men projected to be set up in the room thereof." One 
of these forms was the Congregational, and what, the 
ministers asked, should they do about it? The Kirk 
replied without hesitation: its "unanimous judgment 
and uniform practice" had ever been to put all power in 
the hands of the officers of the Church, who exercised 
it in "subordination unto greater Presbyteries and 
Synods, provincial and national." Any other arrange- 
ment seemed unscriptural. 2 

But even at that moment Burton was bringing the 
split to public notice with his Protestation Protested-^ he 
was soon joined by the five Independents from Holland 
and by Hugh Peter, Weld, and others from New Eng- 
land. Together they presented a formidable bloc, rep- 
resenting a growing and energetic opinion. In their 

1. Baillie, Letters and 'Journals , Letters 20, 23. 

2. David Masson, Life of Milton, n, 288-290. 


party manifesto, the famous slpologeticall Narration, the 
five brethren gave a significant history of their position; 
they told how in Holland they had been able to take 
warning from " the fatall miscarriages and shipwracks of 
the Separatists/' They specifically declared that their 
conceptions of Church polity owed much to New 

We had the recent and later example of the wayes and practices 
(and those improved to a better Edition and greater refinement by 
all the forementioned helps) of those multitudes of godly men of our 
own Nation, almost to the number of another nation, 

who had settled New England " merely to worship God 
more purely/' * 

Presbyterians mustered their best strength and brains 
against the movement; Thomas Edwards passed from 
paroxysm to paroxysm of abuse: 

Satan is now transforming himself from an Angell of darknesse 
into an Angell of light ... so that he will now labour to do that by 
correcting and building up, which hee did before by persecuting and 
pulling downe. . . . One extremitie hath caused another, the Tyran- 
nic of Episcopall government in some Bishops hath brought forth the 
Democracie and Independencie, the violent pressing of some pre- 
tended orders hath set many against all order. . . . Independencie 
will bring againe what now it would cast out, namely libertinisme, 
prophanenesse, errors, and will by some removes bring many men to 
be of no religion at all. 2 

These charges were precisely those which New Eng- 
landers had been repelling, and the Independents de- 
fended English Congregationalism by duplicating their 
arguments. The five brethren denied that they ever had 

1. An Apologeticall Narration^ pp. 5 ff. 

2. Thomas Edwards, Reasons against the Independent Government, sig. B*. 


been Separatists, and assured the world that they gave 
to the magistrates "as much and (as we think) more, 
then the principles of the Presbiteriall government will 
suffer them to yeeld." l Burton insisted there could be 
no danger of Independency infringing upon uniformity 
when all congregations were to be adequately disci- 
plined by the Bible and by consociations; 

and if at any time such a thing should fall out, which cannot grow 
but from some roote of apostacy, particular or generall: if the offence 
doe reflect also upon the Laws of the Civill state, which are made 
against knowne Heresie, or blasphemy, or Idolatry, and the like, the 
offenders are obnoxious to the civill power. So little feare there is, 
that any independent congregation, or any member thereof, should 
be exempt from Condign Censure, where just cause is given either 
Ecclesiasticall or Civill. 2 

He prophesied that the Independent way would function 
ideally as a state religion: "Where such Congregations 
are erected and allowed of by a Civil State, they are 
both a strength and beauty, and procure many blessings 
unto it." 3 

In its first formulation, this conflict between Inde- 
pendent and Presbyterian disciplines was a typical 
Reformation battle between absolutes; each claimed 
an exclusive divine authorization, and neither of them 
could see any possibility of tolerating the other. For a 
time it looked as though Presbyterianism would win. 
Parliament needed the aid of Scotland, and the Scotch 
would not respond until Parliament swore to the 
Solemn League and Covenant. The English negotiators 

1. An Apologetic all Narration^ p. 19. 

2. The Protestation Protested, sig. 4 recto. 

3. Ibid.> sig. Ci verso. 


were desirous that this league might be phrased in such a 
fashion as would keep "a door open in England to Inde- 
pendency/' but against this the Scotch were "peremp- 
tor." l For them the aim of the covenant was "the 
propogation of our Church-discipline in England and 
Ireland," 2 and by accepting it Parliament committed 
itself unreservedly to Presbyterianism. The Scotch army 
entered England in January, 1644, following the advent 
of the masterful Scotch commissioners to the West- 
minster Assembly. The resolute resistence of the Inde- 
pendents failed to convince Presbyterians that they 
were "but an imperfect representation of contemporary 
English opinion. " 3 Step by step the Assembly forced 
through its platform, and in the first months of 1644 the 
men of Scotland seemed to be within easy grasp of the 
goal to which Laud had aspired: the establishment of a 
religious uniformity throughout England and Scotland. 
But by this time another unforeseen factor had en- 
tered into the situation. One of the chief Presbyterian 
arguments against Independency had been that it 
would stimulate the rise of other sects. Now, either 
because the Independents blocked the complete success 
of Presbyterianism, or simply because the turmoil of 
civil war gave centrifugal religious forces a long-sought 
opportunity, by the year 1644 the constant appearance 
of new and fantastic sects became a scandalous but in- 
surmountable fact. "In the time of this anarchy, the 
divisions of people does much increase: the Independent 
party grows; but the Anabaptists more; and the Anti- 

1. Baillie, Letters and Journals, Letter 36. 

2. Ibid., Letter 37. 3. Masson, op. <r*/.,n, 24. 


nomians most/* z moaned Robert Baillie; he and his 
colleagues found their hands full in attacking not only 
the Independents but a lengthening catalogue of "gan- 

The overwhelming importance of this development 
was that it led both the Independents and the sects, 
being minority parties, to realize that the claim of any 
one polity to an absolute sanction and a uniform main- 
tenance was absurd. The idea of toleration, which 
before 1640 had lurked only among the despised Bap- 
tists in Helwysse's congregation, 2 or had been tenta- 
tively suggested in the sophisticated pamphlets of Hales 
and Chillingworth, suddenly found large expression. As 
Troeltsch has put it, "it was now at last the turn of the 
stepchildren of the Reformation to have their great hour 
in the history of the world/' 3 The idea was first taken 
up by the Independents in a limited form. Burton sug- 
gested in 1641 that there might be liberty left to such 
congregations, "as whereof the spirituall Common- 
wealth of Israel consisteth," to practise their way 
peaceably, even if the nation as a whole were Presby- 
terianized. 4 This amazing notion the Presbyterians 
attacked with their customary vehemence. "A Tolera- 
tion/* shrieked Edwards, 

will spoile any Church and government; if Presbyteriall govern- 
ment be setled, and a Toleration given in this Land, that will marre 

1. Baillie, op. a'/., Letter 40. 

2. Herbert Hensley Henson, Studies in English Religion, pp. 218 ff.; cf. 
tracts on Liberty of Conscience and Persecution (Hanserd Knolleys So- 
ciety, London, 1846); Burgess, John Smith, the Se-Baptist, p. 255. 

3. Protestantism and Progress, p. 124. 

4. Burton, The Protestation Protested, sig. 3. 


all. ... I humbly beseech the Parliament seriously to consider the 
depths of Satan in this designe of a Toleration, how this is now his last 
plot and designe, and by it would undermine and frustrate the whole 
work of Reformation intended. 1 

The Independents realized only the more clearly that 
this " designe " was the one way out for them, and the 
authors of the Apologeticall Narration proposed it anew. 
Then in 1644 Roger Williams came to England; The 
Eloudy Tenent of Persecution appeared, followed closely 
by the publication of A Reply of two of the Brethren to 
A. S. y a volume attributed to John Goodwin. "A 
mighty faction is arisen/' proclaimed Baillie, "to prefer 
liberty of conscience for all sects/' 2 The Independents 
became definitely pledged to the movement, and began 
to agitate for a toleration which was, of course, in its 
first form relative, but which could only lead by implica- 
tion to an ultimate separation of Church and State, to 
the principle of voluntaryism, and to liberty of con- 
science in the completely modern sense. Within four 
years advanced opinion in England had taken some 
titanic strides in the history of thought; the "two 
brethren'' suddenly had escaped from the medieval 
philosophy of coercive Church and State, and in the 
might of their new vision hit upon the root of all previ- 
ous religious agonies in a single sentence: 

But that coercive power in matters of Religion^ for the suppressing 
of errours, schismes, heresies, etc., was never attributed to the civill 
Magistrate by any Christian, but only by those that were very confi- 
dent, that it would be used for their turns, and to effect their de- 
sires. 3 

i. Edwards, Antapologia, p. 303. 2. Baillie, op. cit. y Letter 56. 
3. A Reply of two of the Brethren, p. 61. 


The old appeals to scriptural warrant and political 
necessity were now, in the crucible of England's civil 
commotion, stripped of their pretensions and shown in 
their true character as the trappings of selfish ambition 
and class domination. 

But even the opposition presented by the alliance of 
the Independents and the sects might have been over- 
borne by the Presbyterians had not another surprising 
development settled the business outside the Assembly. 
The sects, being the most zealous and pugnacious Puri- 
tans, entered the army in great numbers. By April of 
1644 Baillie himself admitted that they constituted a 
good two thirds of the fighting men, "and these of the 
far most resolute and confident." x Upon this purely 
practical basis the Independent officers became advo- 
cates of toleration and gave the numerous sects their 
first recognized footing. When a subordinate objected 
to promoting a soldier because he was an Anabaptist, 
Cromwell stormed: 

Shall that render him incapable to serve the public? . . . Sir, the 
State in choosing men to serve it takes no notice of their opinions. 
Take heed of being sharp . . . against those to whom you can object 
little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning 
matters of religion. 2 

By 1647 the Independents, professing toleration for all 
law-abiding Protestants, completely dominated the 
army. 3 Williams's Bloudy Tenent was burned by the 
Presbyterians, but when he continued his argument in 
The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy, his book 

1. Baillie, op. '/., Letter 51. 

2. Thomas Carlyle, Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, Letter 20. 

3. Charles Harding Firth, Cromwell's Army, p. 319. 


was received with applause and thanks by the army, by the Parlia- 
ment, professing that, of necessity, yea, of Christian equity, 
there could be no reconciliation, pacification, or living together, but 
by permitting of dissenting consciences to live amongst them. 1 

Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston wrote in disgust to Winthrop 

noe opineones & blasfemy is so bad, but that our Independentes 
heer generally will shelter & countenance, for all heresyes & sectes 
wilbe Independantes vnder this notion, that none should be trobled 
for ther contience though hurtfull to others. 2 

Finally, in 1647, the army leaders, in the long program 
contained in ^The Heads of Proposals, demanded that 
the Prayer Book and compulsory church attendance 
be repealed, and that the taking of the Covenant be 
not forced upon any "against their judgments or con- 
sciences/' 3 The rank and file of the army itself, in 
The Agreement of People, were even more decisive: 

that matters of religion and the ways of God's worship are not at all 
entrusted to us by any human power, because therein we cannot re- 
mit or exceed a tittle of what our consciences dictate to be the mind 
of God without wilful sin. 4 

Thus, in the course of these teeming years the party in 
England that had begun as the advocate of Congrega- 
tionalism was swept by the rush of events into upholding 
a policy which had been pronounced by the New Eng- 
land system to be eternally heretical in religion and 
utterly intolerable in society. 

The Civil Wars removed for the time being all danger 

1. Williams, " Letters," Publications of the Narragansett Club, vi, 353. 

2. Mass. Hist. Soc., Co!/., Series 4, vi, 550. 

3. Gardiner, The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, p. 321. 

4. 7/V.,p. 334- 


of the King's interference in Massachusetts, but created 
for the little Puritan state a delicate diplomatic prob- 
lem. Its sympathies were all on the side of Parliament, 
and Parliament repaid that interest by quashing the quo 
warranto in 1641 and in 1644 by allowing goods to go to 
or from New England free of custom. The colony appre- 
ciated these overtures, but even gratitude did not cause 
it to lose sight of the autonomy for which it had labored. 
When the magistrates were importuned by certain 
" friends " in England to put the colony under Parlia- 
ment, they betrayed their true disposition. 

If we should put ourselves under the protection of the parliament, 
we must then be subject to all such laws as they should make, or at 
least such as they might impose upon us; in which course though 
they should intend our good, yet it might prove very prejudicial 
to us. 1 

But the pretensions of the colony to loyalty towards 
England did seem to require that if it regarded itself as a 
part of England it should at least express a preference. 
As soon as the Court learned of the actual hostilities, it 
omitted King Charles "for the present " from the oaths 
of the magistrates, "seeing he had violated the privi- 
ledges of parliament/' In 1644 a ^ aw was passed pro- 
hibiting anyone from disturbing "or peace, directly or 
indirectly, by drawing a party, under pretence that he is 
for the King of England, & such as adioyne with him 
against the Parliament/' 2 When Captain Jennyson at 
Watertown seemed doubtful about the cause of Parlia- 
ment he was at once haled before the Court; but the 
essential point as far as Massachusetts was concerned 

I . Winthrop, Journal, n, 24. 2. Massachusetts Records , II, 69. 


revealed itself when Jennyson was dismissed because, 
although he refused to affirm that if he were in England 
he would fight against the King, he did not hesitate to 
say that "if the King or any party from him should 
attempt anything against this commonwealth, he should 
make no scruple to spend estate and life and all in our 
defence against them/' * 

Massachusetts was compelled to avow its position 
more publicly in 1644, when a ship acting under a par- 
liamentary commission seized a royalist craft in Boston 
harbor. The question was now raised whether the com- 
mission took precedence over the patent within the 
waters of the colony. To disallow the seizure might 
mean sacrificing parliamentary friendship. There was 
considerable debate about the question, some of the 
elders calling from the pulpits to "maintain the peoples' 
liberties," but the majority felt that Massachusetts 
could not escape acknowledging some allegiance some- 
where without denying "the foundation of our govern- 
ment by our patent/' Otherwise the State would have 
had to revise its whole theory and base its title to the 
land on a purchase from the natives, just as Roger 
Williams had held. At present that seemed a risky pro- 
cedure; "if we stand upon this plea, we must then re- 
nounce our patent and England's protection, which 
were a great weakness in us, seeing their care hath been 
to strengthen our liberties and not overthrow them." 
However, the Court let it be understood that they had 
no intention of sacrificing to this loyalty any material 
advantage: "if the parliament should hereafter be of a 

I. Winthrop, Journal, n, 178. 


malignant spirit, etc., then if we have strength sufficient, 
we may make use of salus populi to withstand any 
authority from thence to our hurt/* x 

The most significant of the colony's initial reactions 
to the Civil Wars was its immediate assumption of the 
role of adviser. At last it seemed that the long-awaited 
chance had come, when New England was to lead Eng- 
land in the paths of righteousness. Weld and Peter were 
despatched in 1641, not only to look after certain in- 
terests, but to further "the work of reformation of the 
Church there which was now like to be attempted," and 
"to give any advice as it should be required, for the 
settling the right form of church discipline there/' 2 
Cotton wrote in 1645: 

We take not upon us ... to prescribe unto our Brethren in Eng- 
land . . . what course to take in pursuing and perfecting the great 
work of Reformation in England. . . . Onely being absent in body, 
but present in spirit, we crave leave to bear witnesse to them, and 
with them; That if the Lord be pleased to prosper his worke amongst 
them, it is possible to reduce the estate of the Congregations in Eng- 
land, to such a reformation, as is sutable to the patterne revealed in 
the Gospel, according to the way of Primitive simplicity, described 
above. 3 

These fond expectations received their first setback 
with the apparent triumph of Presby terianism. Cotton, 
Hooker, and Davenport were asked in 1643 to attend 
the Westminster Assembly, but by that time the New 
England colonies had realized that their hope of direct- 
ing England was vain, and they once more assumed the 
defensive. "The maine busines for which they are 

I. Ibid., pp. 183-186. 2. Ibid., pp. 25,31. 

3. 'Thf Way of the Churches of Christ y p. 1 1 1. 


chiefly called/' wrote Haynes, was "already sett in such 
a way that they who are trew to ther owne principles, 
may rather become a stumble then otherwis." x Mean- 
time, the success of Presbyterianism abroad had en- 
couraged the Presbyterians in New England; these 
derived further support from the smouldering sentiment 
against the restrictions on church membership. Noyes 
and Parker at Newbury became at last so intractable 2 
that a Synod representing all the colonies was called 
at Cambridge, which, Winthrop tells us, "concluded 
against some parts of the presbyterial way/* 3 Though 
the Cambridge Platform made some gestures of friendli- 
ness toward Presbyterianism, it still emphatically de- 
clared that the Gospel did not acknowledge mere civil 
cohabitation "a proper adjunct of Church-relation. " 4 

As New Englanders were rebuffed by the Presbyteri- 
ans, they naturally attempted to swing their support to 
the Independents, who, like themselves, were disciples 
of Ames and many of whom were their personal friends. 
Goodwin and Nye endorsed Cotton's Keyes in 1644 as a 
description of "That very Middle-way (which in our 
Apologie we did in generall intimate and intehd)." s 
But when the Independents went over to the sects, 
and pleaded for liberty of conscience, the dazed New 
Englanders found themselves entirely out of the proces- 
sion. Roger Williams returned to Massachusetts with 

1. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vi, 357. 

2. Cf. position of Noyes in The Temple Measured (1647) a "d Moses and 
Aaron (1661). 

3. Winthrop, Journal, 11, 139; A Reply of two 0} the Brethren, p. 7. 

4. Walker, Creeds and Platforms, p. 197. 

5. The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven, sig. A4 recto; cf. Masson, Life of 
Milton, n, 598. 


a charter for Rhode Island and a letter from various 
members of Parliament entreating the Court for "your 
utmost endeavors of nearer closing, and of ready ex- 
pressing of those good affections/' l A more impossible 
request from the orthodox viewpoint could hardly have 
been made. In the " anarchy " of the Civil Wars English 
Congregationalists had learned a new language, and 
their American brethren had no way of comprehending 
these novel accents. "They in New England/' Baillie 
wrote, " are more strict and rigid then we, or any 
church, to suppress, by the power of the magistrate, all 
who are not of their way"; but, he continued. 

The Independents here, finding they have not the magistrates so 
obsequious as in New England, turn their pens ... to take from the 
magistrate all power of taking any coercive order with vilest here- 
ticks. 2 

Astute as this observation was, the analytical powers of 
a certain Mrs. Katherine Chidley had, in 1641, hit even 
more precisely upon the moral of the story, which, as she 
saw it, was simply that the migration had left England 
too early and the settlers had lost touch with the more 
recent advances. It might be true, as the Presbyterians 
claimed, that the magistrates in New England took upon 
themselves the same authority to bind men's consciences 
which the Presbyterians aspired to wield in England. 

But if it have beene so, I think it was, because they had (here in 
England) taken upon them an oath of conformity (as you have 
sometimes done;) and because the tyranny of the Prelats was so 
mighty, against all good men, that they were faine to go away pri- 
vately, and so had not time or opportunity publikely to disclaime 

I. Winthrop, Journal y ii, 198. 2. Baillie, op. cit. y Letter 59. 


this their oath; and then there might be feare, that upon complaint 
made for disorder there, which could not be admitted here, they 
might have beene sent for back by their ordinaries, and so have been 
committed to some stincking prison here in London; . . . and if they 
have banished any out of their Patents that were neither disturbers 
of the peace of the Land, nor the worship practised in the Land, I am 
perswaded, it was their weaknesse, and I hope they will never at- 
tempt to doe the like. But I am still perswaded, they did it upon the 
same ground, that having knowledge in themselves, that their former 
oath, might be a snare unto them, if they did not hold still some cor- 
respondencie with the practice of Kngland, even till God should 
open a way or meanes for them to sceke free liberty for all, by the 
approbation of authority. 1 

Here is complete contemporary witness to the fact 
that the key to New England's thinking is to be dis- 
covered in the assumptions which all the emigrants had 
entertained in 1630, when they had unquestioningly 
accepted the oath of uniformity as a symbol of the su- 
preme necessity for national religious unity; in her own 
person Mrs. Chidley represents the new liberal move- 
ments, with which New Englanders had had no contact 
and against which they were effectively quarantined by 
the Atlantic Ocean. Now that Massachusetts had suc- 
ceeded in reproducing Elizabethan ideals on the fron- 
tier, she was not in a mood to understand an era which 
found no counterpart in her own experience. Already 
the "two brethren " were speaking of New England as 
having "miscarried for want of such light, as should 
have directed them in a better way/' and were zealously 
vindicating the Independents from the charge of work- 
ing to the same ends. 2 

1. Katherine Chidley, The Justification oj the Independent Churches of Christ, 

PP- 34-35- 

2. A Reply oj two of the Brethren, pp. 104-105. 


Presbyterians completed the isolation of Massachu- 
setts by triumphantly adducing that colony as an ex- 
ample of what the Independents would bring about in 
England if only they had the opportunity. When the 
apologists attacked Presbyterian intolerance as "the 
fatal error to Reformation/' Edwards scored a palpable 
hit by retorting that New England had indeed found the 
lack of it "fatal" and remedied the want "by banish- 
ment and imprisonement (under the names of disturbers 
of civill peace) many members of their Churches, for 
Familisme, Anabaptism, etc." x The Independents 
could thereafter insure the cooperation of the sects 
only by disowning New England; colonial support was 
an embarrassment. Sir Richard Saltonstall wrote to 
Cotton and Wilson, telling the reports he had heard 
reports which Cotton had deliberately been publishing 
abroad and concluding, 

We pray for you and wish you prosperitie every way, hoped the 
Lord would have given you so much light and love there, that you 
might have been eyes to Gods people here, and not to practice those 
courses in a wilderness, which you went so farre to prevent. 2 

Stephen Winthrop reported to his father from Crom- 
welFs army in March, 1645, that "heere is great com- 
plaine agt vs for or severetye agt Anabaptists." 3 And 
Sir Harry Vane wrote Winthrop in June that the 
miseries of England had taught men mutual forbear- 

which makes me hope that, from the experience here, it may also be 
derived to yourselves, least whilst the congregationall way amongst 

1 . Edwards , An (apologia , p . 83 . 

2. Hutchinson, A Collection of Papers, u, 127-128. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc., Co//., Series 5, vm, 200. 


you is in its freedom, and is backed with power, it teach its op- 
pugners here to extirpate it and roote it out, from its owne principles 
and practices. 1 

Massachusetts replied to these criticisms by gathering 
her holy skirts closer about her heels and proceeding on 
her unlovely way alone. From this time forth the colony 
turned aside from the main currents of English opinion, 
refusing to admit any more progress in thought than 
might be allowed by assumptions imported in 1630. In 
November, 1644, the Court ordered the banishment of 
all "Anabaptists," by whom were meant not merely 
those who denied infant baptism, but such liberals as 
denied the right of magistrates to punish breaches of the 
first table. 2 It was this law, George Downing said, 
"which makes us stinke everywheare," 3 and in 1645 
some citizens petitioned against it, because "of the 
offence taken thereat by many godly in England. " 4 As 
soon as the elders heard of this, they hastened to the 
Court, with the result that that body announced "yt ye 
laws mentioned should not be altered at all, nor ex- 
plained." 5 By this time there were books coming out of 
England not only in defense of Presbyterianism, but "in 
defence of anabaptism and other errors, and for liberty 
of conscience"; the elders agreed that one sort was as 
bad as the other, and commissioned various of their 
number to write against both. 6 The isolation of the 
New England Way was complete. Hugh Peter proved a 

1. Hutchinson, op. '/., i, 153. 

2. Massachusetts Records, n, 85; Winthrop, Journal, II, 177. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vi, 537. 

4. Winthrop, Journal, n, 259. 

5. Massachusetts Records, n, 141. 6. Winthrop, Journal, II, 257. 


expect in America was "free liberty to keep away from 
us/* l Clarke, coming over about this time from the 
triumph of modernism in England, epitomized the 
whole process on the title-page of his book: " While Old 
England is becoming new, New-England is become old/' 

Thus did the New England orthodoxy turn its back 
upon the greatest single religious advance of modern 
times, and exert itself to avoid making innovations in its 
thinking. The question now remained whether it could 
successfully maintain this reaction against the forces 
which in England had produced the revolution. In so 
far as Massachusetts embodied a political philosophy 
coeval with Laud, the State likewise had to confront the 
popular impulses he had striven in vain to stifle. Would 
the difference between a frontier environment and a 
complex society be sufficient for Winthrop and Cotton 
to succeed where Canterbury and Charles had failed, or 
where Parliament and the Presbyterians were even then 
coming to grief? 

The first phase of the answer to this question centered 
about the person of Samuel Gorton. The opinions of this 
gentleman are difficult to define; some of them seem to 
be part and parcel of that lunatic fringe which at the 
moment was rampant in England. His own account is 
none too coherent, but it does reveal that among his 
heresies were certain of the recent liberal discoveries. 
Like the "two brethren," he had perceived the under- 
lying psychology of the old belief in national uniformity. 
When the world, he said, had seen "troups of its ances- 
tors go down to the grave " without having witnessed 

i. The Simple Cobler oj Aggawam (ed. David Pulsifer, Boston, 1843), P- 3- 


the "glorious times of peace, ease, and exalt ation" 
which religious prophets had promised, then the priests 
suffered from a reaction, which 

works effectually for a transformation, to cast its worship of God 
into another form . . . and therefore must of necessity labour dili- 
gently as for life, to borrow a coercive power from the Civil Magis- 
trate, to be transferred, turned over, and put into their hands, 
whereby they may subdue others, and compell them to follow their 
way, and to acknowledge their worship to be onely divine, yea the 
onely God of the world. 

In the place of such spiritual husks he offered a sort of 
Antinomian mysticism, "a nearer and shorter cut to the 
Kingdom of God, then the common ministry of the 
world driveth at." x 

In 1637 Gorton had come to Boston, which naturally 
had proved inhospitable; he had thereafter been succes- 
sively expelled from Plymouth and from Portsmouth 
in Rhode Island. He settled in the vicinity of Provi- 
dence, where he added to the worries of Roger Williams. 
In September, 1642, four citizens of Pawtuxet, who had 
enough of trying to live as Gorton's neighbors, peti- 
tioned Massachusetts to intervene, and the next spring 
two subordinate Indian sachems complained against 
their chief for having sold land at Shawomet to Gorton's 
band. The Court required all the petitioners to put 
themselves under the Massachusetts government, and 
then despatched an armed force to bring the ungodly 
crew before the bar. The machinery of Puritan inquisi- 
tion was immediately put into action. Both the Court 

I. "Simplicities Defense against the Seven-Headed Policy," Force, Tracts, 


and the elders disputed with the Gortonists, but failed to 
make them see their manifold errors. The elders there- 
fore concluded that they "deserved death by the law of 
God," and all but three of the magistrates agreed. The 
deputies, however, dissented, and the Court at last de- 
cided to imprison the men separately in various towns, 
because they were blasphemous enemies "of or Lord 
Jesus Christ & his holy ordinances, & also of all civill 
authority among the people of God, & perticulerly in 
this Jurisdiction." J 

This proved to be not a very satisfactory solution, 
because the Gortonists, even in chains, talked; and " we 
found that they did corrupt some of our people, espe- 
cially the women, by their heresies." 2 In March, 1644, 
they were finally banished from the patent, upon pain of 
death. But the Court had gained what it wanted; it had 
gone on record against the sort of men who were creat- 
ing the sects in England. The fundamental difference in 
the two points of view had been brought rather vividly 
to light when Gorton offered to submit his differences 
with the ministers to arbitration. To him this was alto- 
gether possible, but to the divinely authorized ortho- 
doxy of Massachusetts it was utterly unthinkable. The 
elders responded with gusto: "Their blasphemous and 
reviling writings, etc., were not matters fit to be com- 
pounded by arbitrament, but to be purged away only by 
repentance and public satisfaction, or else by public 
punishment." 3 The colony had gone out of its way to 
attest its opinion of precisely such heresies as Cromwell 

1. Massachusetts Records, n, 51; Winthrop, Journal, II, 148-149. 

2. Ibid., p. 149. 3- 


was beginning to look upon with favor, and by pro- 
claiming the impossibility of a compromise announced a 
war to the death between its orthodoxy and the new 

The next ordeal of the government was more serious. 
It was inevitable that the deputies should derive en- 
couragement from the course of events in England. 
They were still smarting from their defeat in the "sow 
case/' and were only too susceptible to the revolutionary 
contagion. In the Court of June, 1644, they suddenly 
brought in a proposal to create a commission of seven 
magistrates, three deputies, and Nathaniel Ward, to dis- 
place the assistants as a council and as justices during 
the vacancy of the General Court. They justified the 
bill by saying that the magistrates held their judicial 
powers only by grant of the Court, and that the Court 
could dispose of that grant as it wished. Once again the 
magistrates were up in arms; they announced that their 
judicial power derived directly from the patent and that 
it could not be tampered with; whereupon one of the 
deputies roundly declared that if the assistants at- 
tempted to act as justices before the next Court, they 
would not be obeyed. But for all this bravado, the 
deputies surrendered again to the conventional tactics. 
Endecott, then governor, called for a council of the 
elders, and their report to the General Court of October 
confirmed the magistrates' claim to a constitutional 
authorization. 1 Most of the lower house gave in, but 
Winthrop noted that "some few leading men (who had 
drawn on the rest) were still fixed upon their own opin- 

i. Massachusetts Records, II, 91; Winthrop, Journal, n, 212. 


ions." x Winthrop had attempted to aid the elders by 
penning a treatise upon arbitrary government, another 
of his ingenious endeavors to explain the complex theory 
of Calvinistic political science, insisting that where the 
people could admit or reject their officers "& require the 
Rule by which they shalbe governed/' there could be 
nothing arbitrary. 2 The deputies secured a copy of this 
work, and though some of them knew well enough who 
had written it, they pretended not to and branded it as 
false and dangerous. Bozon Allen, from Hingham, de- 
clared it "worse than Gorton's letters/' and said that if 
any other person in the colony had written it "it would 
have cost him his ears, if not his head." Yet for these 
intemperate speeches the deputies showed no disposi- 
tion to censure the Hingham delegate. The citizens 
were in an ugly mood. 3 

The fact that the man who so vociferously abused 
Winthrop's treatise was from Hingham was in itself sig- 
nificant. Trouble had long been brewing in that town, 
where the doughty Peter Hobart ruled his church in a 
"Presbyterial spirit" and in almost open defiance of his 
fellow ministers. In the spring of 1645 the town militia 
chose for their captain one Eames, but later changed 
their minds and picked Allen. It was an accepted rule in 
the colony that the election of all militia officers was 
subject to magisterial approval, and the leaders were 
naturally jealous of this power. When the local squabble 
was carried into the church, where Hobart was "very 

1. 7/W.,pp. 170-172, 189, 217. 

2. Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, n, 427~43 8 - 

3. Winthrop, "Journal, u, 241-243. 


forward " to have Eames excommunicated, the magis- 
trates saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one 
stone, to assert their control over militia elections and 
pay off old scores with Hobart. Winthrop, then deputy 
governor, acting in the capacity which the last General 
Court had confirmed to the magistrates, ordered the 
Hobart faction to give bond for appearance at the 
quarter court, and when they refused committed them 
for contempt. 1 

Hobart was a man of passion, and now his blind rage 
played directly into the hands of the magistrates. 
Before the quarter court had met, the General Court 
assembled, and Hobart, at the head of ninety men of 
Hingham, presented to the deputies a petition craving 
of them to consider the charges against him and his 
friends. The lower house readily accepted the petition, 
thus confirming the magistrates' theory that democrats 
made foolish governors. For with the petition in their 
hands, they were at a loss what to do with it; finding 
themselves "at a stand for the present/* they requested 
"or honnored magistrates yt they would send vs their 
thoughts & votes vpon ye whole case." 2 The magis- 
trates saw at once that they had the deputies in a corner, 
and were determined not to let the people's spokesmen 
escape without rendering a strict account. They pro- 
ceeded with what seems to have been calculated cruelty. 
Declaring that Eames was the properly elected captain, 
and that he now received their sanction, they pointed 

1. Unless otherwise indicated, the citations concerning the Hingham episode 
are from Winthrop's narrative, Journal, n, 229 ff. 

2. Massachusetts Records , m, 18. 


out that the company was therefore mutinous, and had 
been justly committed. Hence the petition was "cawse- 
less & iniurious" and should never have been enter- 
tained at all. 

Immediately the whole question of the magistrates' 
position was again at stake: if the assistants permitted 
the petition to have a hearing and concurred in reexam- 
ining the charges, even if they finally got Hobart 
punished, they would implicitly deny that Winthrop had 
possessed a right to indict the Hinghamites, and so 
would nullify the right of magistrates to act as justices. 
But the magistrates were equal to the occasion. Since 
the deputies insisted upon receiving the petition, they 
demanded that it should name a specific officer, and 
that the Court should then treat it as an accusation of 
illegal conduct. Then if the petition failed to prove its 
point, it would be nothing short of attempted revolu- 
tion. The magistracy would be vindicated as a standing 
council, and the petitioners could be tried for such 
counts as Winthrop had legally drawn against them. 
Probably the instigator of this move was Winthrop him- 
self; he says, at any rate, that he desired the case to 
have a public hearing because he knew how the magis- 
trates had suffered "through the slanderous reports 
wherewith the deputies and the country about had been 
possessed." The Hinghamites fell into the trap, and 
laid "a chardeje on ye Deputy Gouernor ffor illegal im- 
prisoning of some of them & forcing the first with others 
to give bond with suertyes to appeare & answer at ye 
next Quarter Courte." ' The assistants then graciously 

i. Ibid., pp. 17-18. 


informed the deputies that though it was prejudicial to 
the authority and honor of the whole Court to call a 
magistrate to answer when he had done nothing but a 
duty which they themselves had allowed him, "yet if 
they would needs have a hearing, they would join in it." 

When the Court assembled, Winthrop, coming in with 
the rest of the magistrates, "placed himself beneath 
within the bar and so sat uncovered." Many "both of 
the Court and the assembly were grieved at it/' and 
begged him not to humble himself, but he pointed out 
that since he was accused, he "might not sit as a judge 
in that cause," nor would it be an advantage for him to 
be upon the bench, "for he could not take that liberty to 
plead the cause, which he ought to be allowed at the 

Having taken this "liberty," Winthrop did not mince 
matters. Pointing out again that strictly speaking there 
was no reason why he should answer at all, he declared 
that he was glad to waive that plea in order to face the 
charges "to the end that the truth of the case, and of all 
proceedings thereupon might appear to all men." He 
had done only what was the duty of his office; therefore 
the real issue was whether "the magistrates exercised 
too much power." He and his party, in opposition to the 
deputies, held "that authority was overmuch slighted, 
which, if not timely remedied, would endanger the com- 
monwealth, and bring us to a mere democracy." He had 
acted "according to the equity of laws here established, 
and the custom and laws of England, and our constant 
practice here these fifteen years"; if at every flicker of 
popular sympathy the deputies were going to entertain 


groundless protests against the established order, then 
let them behold in the anarchy of England the future of 
the colony. 

The magistrates were inexorable; the petition, they 
declared, must be pronounced scandalous, the petition- 
ers censured, and Winthrop acquitted. The deputies by 
this time were demoralized. They could not bring them- 
selves to censure their fellow citizens, and they struck 
out blindly, levying small fines indiscriminately, even on 
that part of the band that had been loyal and on Kames, 
who was neither plaintiff nor defendant. The magis- 
trates promptly objected to this ''manifest injustice"; 
however, they would let the guilty petitioners off with 
the amounts determined by the deputies if "ye Deputy 
Gouernor may be pronounced innocent in what hath 
binn chardged vpon him, & ye petitioners enioyned to 
make publicque acknowledgments for ye iniury donne 
him." ' 

Then the magistrates made an eloquent gesture. "If 
this may not be obtayned we then desire some indiffer- 
ent arbitrators may be nominated, to whom ye cause for 
finall determination may be dcfferred." "Indifferent" 
is almost a comical touch, for what the passage meant 
was, as Winthrop says, that the deputies "join with 
them in calling in the help of the elders." The magis- 
tracy was invoking the familiar trick, and the deputies 
would rather lose honorably than be hoodwinked again, 
44 for they knew that many of the elders understood the 
cause, and were more careful to uphold the honor and 
power of the magistrates than themselves well liked of/' 

I. Ibid., pp. 24-25. 


And so, " finding themselves now at the wall, and not 
daring to trust the elders with the cause/' the deputies 
capitulated, Fines were exacted and censures ordered as 
the magistrates desired; Winthrop was formally ac- 
quitted of all that was "layd to his charge, " and it was 
recorded upon the books of the lower house that "wee 
desire ye country will hereby take notice." l 

It was a great victory, the best the magistrates ever 
won. Winthrop was too good a politician to let the 
occasion slip without collecting his full pound of flesh. 
The deputies, touchingly enough, had "by importu- 
nity M got the assistants to read the sentence of the 
Court, "without speaking any more," but when Win- 
throp returned to the bench, "he desired leave for a 
little speech.'* Considering the circumstances, this 
famous utterance can be compared to nothing less than 
the final twist of an inquisitorial thumb-screw. 

He began by thanking God that the "troublesome 
business" had come to an end and pronounced himself 
satisfied. But something more, he felt, had to be said, 
"to inform and rectify the judgments of some of the 
people." There had been two questions involved in this 
case. The first concerned the authority of the magis- 

It is yourselves who have called us to this office, and being called 
by you, we have our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, 
such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it, the con- 
tempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples of 
divine vengeance. . . . The covenant between you and us is the oath 
you have taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern 

i. Ibid., p. 26. 


you and judge your causes by the rules of God's laws and our own, 
according to our best skill. 

When the people had elected a magistrate they had to 
choose as best they could, but once they had chosen, 
they "must run the hazard of his skill and ability " so 
long as he did not fail in faithfulness. 

The second question was one of liberty. Confusion 
arose here from a lack of discrimination between the two 
sorts of liberty. The first sort was natural, and man pos- 
sessed it in common with the beasts. " By this, man, as 
he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do 
what he lists, it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. 
This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with 
authority/' It made men ultimately worse than beasts; 
it was that enemy to truth and peace which "all the 
ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and sub- 
due it." But the second sort of liberty was "civil or 
federal, it may also be termed moral, in reference to the 
covenant between God and man, in the moral law, the 
political covenants and constitutions, amongst men 
themselves." This liberty required authority, for it was 
a liberty to do only the good, just, and honest. Hence 
the people should defend authority with their lives; 
"whatsoever crosseth this, is not authority but a dis- 
temper thereof." And they who possessed it were to 
exercise it only in willing subjection, as the Church 
exercised her liberty by subjection to Christ, or a woman 
by subjecting herself to her husband. If the people 
would follow civil liberty in a social compact, and 
"cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over 
you ... for your good," then the magistrates would do 


their best, and would be willing to listen to advice. "So 
shall your liberties be preserved, in upholding the honor 
and power of authority amongst you." 

Winthrop was not a vain man, but he could not fail to 
see what he had accomplished. He had done nothing less 
than avert the Civil Wars in New England. One of the 
saddest errors about the whole business, he said, was 
"that while we sympathize with our native country in 
their calamities," yet "we should be hastening by all our 
skill and power to bring the like miseries upon our- 
selves." The deputies, fearing an arbitrary govern- 
ment, were appealing to "extrema remedia, as if salus 
populi had been now the transcendent rule to walk by." 
They sought to make the magistracy "a ministerial 
office," so that "all authority, both legislative, consul- 
tative, and judicial, must be exercised by the people in 
their body representative." To this end they had 
labored at every stage of the game, in their attack on the 
negative voice, in their attempt to curtail the magis- 
trates 1 judicial power, in their assault upon Winthrop's 
treatise. But the magistrates, by their expert strategy, 
had blocked the appeal to these dangerous justifications, 
and had salvaged, on a firmer basis than ever before, the 
original, static, legalistic structure of the government, in 
which authority was derived from God and obedience 
was a moral duty. The Reformation dictum that govern- 
ment was an ordinance of God survived intact in New 
England at the very time when England was discovering 
new implications in the social contract. The philosophy 
of civil rule in Massachusetts was paralleled to the ec- 
clesiastical. The remote author of the constitution was 


God; the magistrate derived his authority from God, 
even though elected by the people. He derived it, in 
fact, more clearly than the King had claimed to derive 
his, for he was the embodiment of the corporate will, and 
the corporate will had already contracted itself to be 
subject to the will of God. The magistrate could there- 
fore demand an absolute obedience, so long as his ad- 
ministration did not offend against Revelation, and 
against Revelation, moreover, as it \\as authoritatively 
interpreted by the elders, his sworn partners in the task 
of government. 

The final ordeal for the New England orthodoxy came 
within the next year; this assault combined the elements 
of both political and religious discontent and originated 
not among the freemen but the non-freemen. It was 
directed against the restricted church membership and 
the qualified franchise. The move owed something of its 
instigation to events in England. The elders in October, 
1645, had felt apprehensive enough to ask for the calling 
of a great general Synod. In June the battle of Naseby 
had been fought, and in September the capture of 
Bristol assured the defeat of the King, who in May sur- 
rendered himself to the Scotch and not to the English 
army. The Scotch, of course, were in alliance with the 
Presbyterians. "It is thought ye warre is at an end," 
wrote Stephen Winthrop, "Only the Presbyterian Gov- 
ernment is resolved on, & ye other are at a losse & can- 
not tell where they shall find rest." ' There was appar- 
ently now a power in England equal to Laud's, which 
might resume his policy, fired by the hope of adding 

i. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 5, vin, 202. 


New England to the Solemn League and Covenant. The 
Massachusetts divines girded their loins and began agi- 
tation for a Synod as a step to frank ecclesiastical inde- 

Hobart put the match to the new train of powder by 
refusing to answer the marshall's summons, denying the 
warrant because it was not in the King's name, "and 
standing upon his allegiance to the crown of England, 
and exemption from such laws as were not agreeable to 
the laws of England." He was immediately brought 
before the Court, charged with "seditious practice and 
derogation and contempt of authority/' because he held 
that the colony was but as any corporation in England 
and did not have power by the patent to "put any man 
to death, nor do divers other things which we did." r 
Massachusetts, freed by the Civil Wars from all but the 
merest shadow of dependence, was vaunting her au- 
tonomy in what seemed even to many New Englanders 
a flagrant fashion. Pynchon wrote in haste, advising 
moderation, but purely on grounds of expediency: 

We are not a ffree state, neather do I apprehend that magistrates, 
elders, or deputies doe think we are a ffree state, neather do I think 
it our wisdome to be a ffree state; though we had our liberty, we can- 
not as yet subsist without England. 2 

But the magistrates were willing to take the conse- 
quences; they fined Hobart twenty pounds, at which, 
Winthrop says, "his spirits rose/' 

Other spirits followed suit. Sentiment against the 
exclusive church membership seems to have been gather- 

1. Winthrop, Journal^ n, 265-266. 

2. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vi, 383. 


ing weight. In March, 1644, a proposition had been 
made in the General Court "for yielding some more of 
the freeman's privileges to such as were no church mem- 
bers/' but nothing had come of it. 1 William Vassal, who 
lived in Scituate, close to Hingham, and who was a man 
"always opposite to the civil governments of this coun- 
try and the way of our Churches," gathered a group of 
non-members and proposed to petition the Courts both 
of Plymouth and Massachusetts, "and (if that suc- 
ceeded not) then to the parliament of England, that the 
distinctions which were maintained here, both in civil 
and church estate, might be taken away, and that we 
might be wholly governed by the laws of England/' ' 
According to a letter from Winslow, of November 24, 
1645, the petition in Plymouth asked also a "full and 
free tollerance of religion to all men that would preserve 
the civill peace and submit unto our government/' 
"You would have admired," he continued, "to have 
seen how sweet this carrion relished to the pallate of 
most of the deputies/' but Bradford scornfully refused 
even to put such a motion to a vote. 3 

Feeling that a crisis was imminent, the Court of Mas- 
sachusetts acted upon the elders' recommendation and 
on May 15, 1646, asked that a Synod be called, giving 
an eloquent account of the reasons. 

The right forme of church government & discipline being agreed 
part of ye kingdome of Christ upon earth, therefore ye establishing 
& settleing thereof by ye ioynt & publicke agreement & consent of 
churches, & by ye sanction of civill authority, must needs greatly 

I. Winthrop, Journal, n, 163. 2. Ibid., p. 271. 

3. Hutchinson, A Collection oj Papers, i, 174. 


conduce to ye honor & glory of or Lord Jesus Christ, & to ye settleing 
& safety of church & commonwealth, where such a duty is diligently 
attended & performed; & in as much as times of publike peace, which 
by ye mercy of God are vouchsafed to these plantations, but how 
long ye same may continue wee do not know, are much more com- 
modious for ye effecting of such a worke then those troublesome 
times of warr & of publike disturbances thereby, as ye example of or 
deare native country doth witnes at this day . . . & considering 
withal yt, through want of ye thing here spoken of, some differences 
of opinion & practice of one church from another do already appeare 
amongst us, and others (if not timely prevented) are like speedily tq 

Considering these things, the Court asked the elders to 
frame a platform of discipline, so that the orthodoxy of 
New England should know precisely where it stood. 1 

Within a week of this request, seven men, headed by 
Dr. Robert Child, appeared before the Court with a 
petition. These persons were, as Johnson said, "of a 
Linsi-wolsie disposition," 2 and were not agreed in their 
religious sentiments. Child and Burton were Presby- 
terians, Burton being from Hingham; Maverick was 
known to be an Anglican. But it was not the strength of 
this group that caused the alarm. The petition followed 
immediately after the Vassal one, shortly after the 
Hingham affair, and a half year after Gorton had landed 
in England petitioning Parliament for redress and rein- 
statement at Shawomet. 3 There seemed to be good cause 
to suspect Child of having been an agitator at Hing- 
ham; 4 at any rate, two of the votes refusing to fine him 

1. Massachusetts Records, n, 154-155. 

2. 'The Wonder Working Providences, p. 202; cf. Winslow, New-Englands 
Salamander, p. 3; Kittredge, Dr. Robert Child, the Remonstrant, pp. 23-28. 

3. Ibid., p. 25. 

4. Ncw-Englands Salamander, p. 5. 


in November were cast by Hingham deputies, and in 
December Hobart and his townsmen refused to join in 
the fast ordered by the Court, because, some of them 
said, "they would not fast against Dr. Child and against 
themselves/' ' Winslow later declared that the petition 
was known and circulated in England, in all the colonies, 
in the West Indies, and even in New Amsterdam, 2 and 
at the moment he wrote to Winthrop entreating him 

to be better prepared (at least to staue off prejudice against your 
Governt in the Committee of Parhamt) in regard of the petitioners 
& many other who are very busie, who not onely threaten us as well 
as you, but grossly abuse us . . . & boast as if the victory were at- 
tayned before the enterprise is begun. * 

The real reason for the government's fear of the peti- 
tioners was not their intrinsic strength, but the fact that 
they made a wide appeal to international as well as 
domestic sentiment, and threatened to upset the internal 
triumph the magistrates had secured in the Hingham 
case by calling in English Presbyterianism. 

The text of the petition betrays its ultimate purpose. 
The ostensible requests would never have been willingly 
granted that the fundamental laws of England be 
established in Massachusetts, that "civill liberty and 
freedom be forthwith granted to all truely English/' and 
that "sober, righteous, and godly men . . . not dissent- 
ing from the latest and best reformation of England,, 
Scotland, etc./' be given liberty to found their own 
churches. The point of the document is its conclusion 
that if these things could not be obtained, "we ... shall 

1. Massachusetts Records, in, 94; Winthrop, Journal, n, 321. 

2. New-Englands Salamander, p. 6. 

3. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vi a 182. 


be necessitated to apply our humble desires to the hon- 
ourable houses of parliament, who we hope will take our 
sad conditions into their serious considerations/' x The 
right of appeal to England was thus coming up for final 
trial, and Child was relying on a Presbyterian Parlia- 
ment to see him through. 

The authorities were in a bad temper, and were not 
mollified by the reception accorded their call for a Synod. 
There had been no doubt in their minds that they pos- 
sessed a recognized right to summon such a body, but in 
order to forestall criticism they contented themselves 
with merely expressing a " desire " that the churches 
assemble. They expressly warded off all Presbyterian 
implications by directing that the Synod should reach its 
conclusions not "by way of power, but only of counsel 
from the word of God." 2 But at even so guarded an 
order the deputies balked, becoming suddenly much con- 
cerned for the independence of particular churches. The 
magistrates satisfied the scruples of the lower house by 
patiently pointing out the right, even the duty, of the 
civil authority to ask advice of general assemblies, since 
"the magistrate was bound by God to maintain the 
churches in purity and truth." 3 Hingham, for obvious 
reasons, made no attempt to be represented at the 
gathering; in Salem and Boston many of the congrega- 
tions grew remarkably afraid they might "betray the 
liberty of the churches, if they should consent to such a 
synod." 4 The ministers resorted to something like 

1. Hutchinson, A Collection of Papers, I, 214-223. 

2. Massachusetts Records, n, 154-155. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, n, 274. 4. Ibid., pp. 278-279. 


strong-arm tactics to bring these critics into line. But 
this opposition, Winthrop dryly comments, although it 
masqueraded in the good old Congregational spirit, was 
not simply an expression of anti-Presbyterianism; it 
arose rather from men who were pervaded with the new 
teachings, from men who had lately come from Eng- 

where such a vast liberty was allowed, and sought for by all that 
went under the name of Independents, not only the anabaptists, 
antinomians, familists, seekers, etc., but even the most godly and 
orthodox, as Mr. Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Burrows, etc., who in the 
assembly there had stood in opposition to the presbytery, and also 
the greater part of the house of commons, who by their commis- 
sioners had sent order to all English plantations in the West Indies 
and Summers Islands, that all men should enjoy their liberty of con- 
science, and had by letters intimated the same to us. . . .' 

Winthrop's words are a significant comment upon the 
extent to which the New England Way had become an 
isolated faction; even the most godly and orthodox at 
home had, according to New England lights, gone 
utterly astray. Because of the obstructionist measures 
of the disgruntled, the Synod did not convene until well 
into the fall, and then disbanded for the winter without 
considering any of the things which the magistrates felt 
imperatively demanded settlement. 

To make matters worse, the colony was treated at 
that moment to an intimation of what support Child 
might find in England when Randall Holden, one of 
Gorton's party, arrived with an order from the Com- 
missioners for Plantations, giving him and his associates 
free passage to their land at Shawomet; this apparition 

. 279. 


was soon followed by a notice that Gorton had been 
granted a charter. The Commissioners did this, Win- 
throp says, "partly for their adhering to some of their 
corrupt tenets, and generally out of their dislike of us 
for our late law banishing anabaptists." The elders and 
assistants realized that they had to yield, but they held 
themselves in reserve for new developments. 1 When the 
next session of the New England federation met at New 
Haven, the Massachusetts plenipotentiaries proposed, 
"vpon serious consideration of the spreading nature of 
Error . . . And vpon information of what petitions haue 
beene lately putt vp in some of the Colonies, against the 
good and straite waies of Christ/' that greater rigor 
should be observed throughout the region, that candi- 
dates for admission to church membership be strictly 
examined, and that sects which opposed the Sabbath 
or other ordinances of God, or who "bring in and 
cry vp vnwarrantable Reuelations, inventions of men, 
or any carnall liberty, vnder a deceitfull colloure of 
liberty of conscience, may be seasonably and duly 
supprest." 2 

In November the Court and the elders considered 
Child's petition. When Hobart appeared among the 
divines, they decided that he had probably had a hand 
in the petition which Vassal was then carrying to Eng- 
land, and Winthrop asked him to withdraw. 3 The Court 
then gave its attention to the fundamental question in- 
volved in the petition, the question of "in what relation 

1. Ibid., pp. 282-284, 292-293. 

2. Records of the Colony oj New Plymouth, ix, 81. 

3. Winthrop, Journal, u, 290. 


we stood to the state of England; whether our govern- 
ment was founded upon our charter, or not; if so, then 
what subjection we owed to that state. " The advice of 
the elders was asked, but the magistrates furnished their 
opinion in advance, "that the elders might have the 
better light": 

That though we owed allegiance and subjection to them, as we 
had always professed . . . yet by our charter we had absolute power 
of government; for thereby we have power to make laws, to erect all 
sorts of magistracy, to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule the 
people absolutely, which word implies two things, i. a perfection of 
parts, so as we are thereby furnished with all parts of government, i. 
it implies a self-sufficiency . . . and ergo should not need the help of 
any superior power ... to complete our government. 

The elders at once agreed. Massachusetts, of course, 
stood "in near relation, so also in dependence upon that 
state in divers respects," but "in point of government" 
the patent granted such full and ample powers "that no 
appeals or other ways of interrupting our proceedings do 
lie against us." For the present emergency, the minis- 
ters recommended sending an agent to England, who, if 
he found Parliament friendly, should secure a confirma- 
tion of "our just power." "But if parliament should be 
less inclinable to us, we must wait upon providence for 
the preservation of our just liberties." ' Winslow was 
already going over for Plymouth, and he was accord- 
ingly asked to represent the Bay also. 

The authorities then turned their attention specifi- 
cally to Child. The elders condemned his remonstrance, 
but "they gave no advice for censure, etc., leaving that 

. 293-294. 


to the Court/' Child, seeing the way things were going, 
lost his temper, and before the Court could levy an offi- 
cial charge, threatened an appeal to Parliament. Win- 
throp jumped at the chance thus offered, telling Child 
that no appeal was allowed by the charter and that by 
this "it appeared what their aim was in their petition; 
they complained of fear of perpetual slavery, but their 
intent was, to make us slaves to them and such as them- 
selves were, and that by the parliament and commis- 
sioners." I An indictment was drawn up, accusing the 
petitioners of raising sedition "by insinuating into the 
people's minds, that there are many thousands secretly 
discontented at the government/' of attempting to put 
the colony in a bad light by attributing to it such con- 
duct "as is abominable to the parliament and that party 
in England," of saying "that our own brethren in Eng- 
land have just indignation against us," and of making 
an appeal before any sentence was given. 2 To make its 
position clear, the Court pointed out that the remon- 
strants entertained several mistaken notions about the 
colony; they claimed that the liberties of the charter 
belonged to all freeborn Englishmen, "whereas they are 
granted only to such as the governor and company shall 
think fit to receive into that fellowship"; they persisted 
in regarding the company as a corporation in England 
when it was one outside England and so definitely not 
subject to English laws in general; they held the colony 
obliged to the laws of England by the charter and oath 
of allegiance, but 

1. 7iV.,p. 296. 

2. Ibid. y pp. 297-298; Massachusetts Records, in, 90-92. 


our allegiance binds us not to the laws of England any longer than 
while we live in England, for the laws of the parliament of England 
reach no further, nor do the king's writs under the great seal go any 
further. 1 

When the petitioners remained unconvinced by these 
obiter dicta^ they were fined various amounts, Child be- 
ing assessed fifty pounds. 2 

In view of such obstinacy, the authorities no longer 
had any doubts that the screws of discipline needed 
tightening. After the remonstrants were punished, the 
Court went in for an orgy of legislation. It made blas- 
phemy punishable by death, prescribed fines for " noto- 
rious & violent heretics/' rated " vaine swearing" at ten 
shillings an offense, and levied against anyone who con- 
temptuously carried himself against any minister either 
a fine of five pounds or a sentence to stand for two hours 
upon a block on a lecture day, " with a paper fixed on his 
breast with this, A Wanton Gospeller, written in capitall 
letters." Persistently rebellious children, or church 
members who denied Scripture to be the Word of God, 
the Court judged to merit death, and it revived in a 
more stringent form the order compelling church attend- 
ance because hearing of the Word was not only the ordi- 
nary means to bring men to faith, "but also to civill 
obedience & allegiance unto magistracy." 3 

Child prepared to sail for England. The magistrates 
bided their time, and the day before he was to embark 
they seized his and Band's papers. Among these they 
found a petition to the Commissioners that Massachu- 

i. Winthrop, Journal, 11, 297, 304, 301; cf. Winslow, New-Englands Sala- 
mander, pp. 9-10. 
i. Massachusetts Records, in, 94. 3- Ibid -y I7 6 ~ l8 i nl 98~ loa - 


setts be given "settled churches according to the refor- 
mation of England/' that English liberties be granted 
and an English governor be imposed, and 

that the oath of allegiance may be commanded to be taken by all, 
and other covenants which the parliament shall think most conven- 
ient, to be as a touchstone to try our affections to the state of Eng- 
land and true restored protestant religion. 1 

The magistrates' suspicions were confirmed. Child was 
aiming at nothing less than the subjugation of New 
England to the Presbyterian discipline. The General 
Court immediately took charge, "in regard the cause 
was of so great concernment, as the very life and foun- 
dation of our government/' 2 and in May, 1647, levied 
upon Child and his followers immense fines. The move- 
ment within the colony was effectively smashed. Child 
soon departed for England, where he joined hands with 
Vassall and the Gortonists against Winslow, and the 
last act in the establishment of orthodoxy in Massachu- 
setts was played out in London. 

Winslow left Massachusetts equipped with a petition 
to the Commissioners which frankly admitted that 
appeals could not stand with the continuance of a suc- 
cessful government in the colony; the Commission- 
ers were therefore asked "to confirme our libertyes 
(graunted to vs by charter) by remitting delinquents to 
our just proceedings." 3 When Winslow arrived in 
London he found Gorton's Simplicities Defense already 
on the stalls, to which he replied with Hypocrisie Un- 
masked. Dr. Child's brother then chimed in with New- 

I. Winthrop, Journal, II, 307. 2. 7<;W.,p. 316. 

3. Ibid., n, 312; Massachusetts Records , in, 95-98. 


England* Jonas Cast up at London, and Winslow had the 
last word in New-Englands Salamander. 

Major John Child directed his appeal to Presbyterian 
prejudices. The various colonies in New England, he 
said, were ruled "by an Arbitrary government of their 
own, nor indeed can they endure the Laws of England/' 
Independency had come from New England in the first 
place, and New England's government was like to fol- 
low; thereupon Wales, Ireland, and Cornwall would 
presume to act as independently as the New England 
states. He begged Parliament not to be deceived by the 
colonists' pretense of doctrinal agreement with orthodox 
England. 1 Winslow replied simply that New England 
could not be governed at all if the English government 
reserved the right to hear appeals. All that was required 
of Massachusetts by its charter "in the making of our 
Lawes and Ordinances, Offices, and Officers, is to goe as 
neare the Lawes of England as may be/' Therefore, he 
concluded, in an uncannily prophetic paragraph, 

If the Parliaments of England should impose Lawes upon us 
having no Burgesses in their house of Commons, nor capable of a 
summons by reason of the vast distance of the Ocean being three 
thousand miles from London, then wee should lose the libertie and 
freedome I conceived of English indeed. 2 

Interesting as these arguments were, events of more 
importance than a pamphlet warfare were to settle the 
destinies of Massachusetts. In June of 1647 Cornet 
Joyce, at the instigation of the army "Agitators," ap- 
peared at Holdenby House with his " commission " of a 

1. New-Englands Jonas, pp. 116-120. 

2. New-Englands Salamander, p. 24. 


squad of well-armed cavalry. The King shrugged his 
shoulders and rode off to the army's camp. On August 6 
the army entered London, and the Presbyterian rule was 
shattered. The next thirteen years were spent by the 
victorious faction in attempting to remain in power, and 
they had no time to look to New England; furthermore, 
since they were attempting to formulate a policy of 
toleration, they were content that Massachusetts should 
go its own way. " Sir/' wrote Thomas Harrison to Win- 
throp, "what cause haue we to wonder at that rich & 
glorious grace, which hath wrought this. . . . That 
golden apple, the ordinance for toleration, is now fairly 
fallen into the lap of the saints.'* Although Harrison 
added, "if any partake in this indulgence, besides the 
orthodoxall party, 'tis noe matter of exultation to me at 
all," I still it was enough for New England's "ortho- 
doxall party" if it gained its point in England, no 
matter in what company; such circumstances could be 
rectified across the water. 

This changing complexion of things won Winslow's 
case. On May 25 the Commissioners delivered their 
opinion on the petition. They placed the seal of their 
approval on the colony's claim to absolute power within 
its own jurisdiction, declaring that they did not intend 

to encourage any appeals from your justice, nor to restrain the 
bounds of your jurisdiction to a narrower compass than is held forth 
by your letters patent, but to leave you with all that freedom and 
latitude that may, in any respect, be duly claimed by you. 2 

With the triumph of Cromwell there was no longer a 

1. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 4, vn, 436-439. 

2. Winthrop, Journal ', n, 337. 


chance of this decision being reversed. He fought in the 
Second Civil War, as Masson says, with a halter around 
his neck, but when he lifted that halter from himself by 
the point of his sword, he placed the yoke of the New 
England Way upon the necks of everyone in those prov- 
inces. By forcing toleration upon Presbyterians in 
England, he insured the continuance of intolerance 
among Congregationalists in Massachusetts. No wonder 
Cotton wrote to him, "I am fully satisfied, that you 
have all this while fought the Lords battells," and that 
"in like frame . . . are the spirits of our brethren (the 
elders and churches of these parts) carried forth. " J 
There was now nothing left for the Massachusetts 
leaders but to go on in peace, security, and righteous- 
ness, while Cromwell turned to the impossible task of 
enforcing a liberal regime by the most autocratic of 

The Cambridge Synod had assembled again in 1647, 
but an epidemic had forced a second adjournment.' 
Finally in the spring of 1648 it gathered once more, rep- 
resentatives from all orthodox colonies being present. 
When Mr. Allin of Dedham was preaching at the first 
session, a snake crawled into the building, upon which 
one Mr. Thomason of Braintree, formerly Wheel 
wright's congregation, trod "until it was killed." With 
more appropriateness than usually accompanied their 
allegorical divinations, the respectable elders agreed 
that the serpent signified the devil, and the Synod 
represented the churches of Christ; "the devil had 

1. Kutchinson, A Collection oj Papers, I, 264. 

2. Winthrop, Journal, n, 324. 


formerly and lately attempted their disturbance and 
dissolution; but their faith in the seed of the woman 
overcame him and crushed his head/' Thus "the 
Synod went on comfortably/* adopted the Westminster 
Confession of Faith, drew up an account of Congrega- 
tional polity "according to the general practice of our 
churches/* and "ended in less than fourteen days." 1 
Although fourteen stubborn deputies continued to pro- 
test to the last, by 1651 the churches had all sub- 
scribed to the Platform, not, as Johnson said, because "a 
Synod hath said it, but because the Lord hath spoken it 
by his Spirit/' 

And there the Platform stands today, the consumma- 
tion and the synthesis of this bit of human history. In a 
brief Preface is compacted a summary of all the historic 
features of the New England Way, beginning with a 
calm reassertion of its Non-separatist position, although 
Separation had ceased to be an issue in England. There 
is a conciliatory word towards Presbyterianism, which 
could be hazarded now that the danger from that 
quarter was past. Then the keystone of the system, 
limited church membership, is explained, and the whole 
organization advanced as an ideal method for a na- 
tional church. There follows a detailed consideration of 
the various features, with the proper biblical authoriza- 
tions appended to each. The next to the last chapter 
declares it lawful for magistrates to call synods "to 
counsell & assist them in matters of religion/' The 
last chapter codifies the magistrates' function in the 
supervision of orthodoxy. There should be no opposi- 
i. Ibid., pp. 347-348. 


tion between State and Church; the civil authorities do 
not " restrain " churches, but help and further them, and 
the churches should seek all opportunities to secure the 
magistrates' approbation. True, the State is limited, as 
Robert Browne had limited it; it cannot compel church 
membership, nor meddle with church censures, but it 
can enforce both tables and compel uniformity. The end 
of the magistrates' office "is not only the quiet & peace- 
able life of the subject, in matters of righteousness & 
honesty, but also in matters of godliness, yea of all 
godliness." Therefore 

Idolatry, Blasphemy, Heresy, venting corrupt & pernicious opin- 
ions, that destroy the foundation, open contempt of the word 
preached, prophanation of the Lords day, disturbing the peaceable 
administration & exercise of the worship & holy things of God, & the 
like are to be restrayned, & punished by civil authority. 

Hence if any should grow schismatical, rend themselves 
from the communion of churches, or walk obstinately in 
any "corrupt way of their own, contrary to the rule of 
the word; in such a case, the magistrate is to put forth 
his coercive power, as the matter shall require/' J 

Neither Winthrop nor Cotton long survived this 
crowning evidence of their success, but they should have 
died content. The contrast between the settled condi- 
tion of their state and the turbulent confusion of king- 
less England probably brought to their lips more than 
one expression of gratitude to the Deity. "All is quiet," 
wrote Stephen Winthrop to his brother, in the hush that 
followed the execution of Charles, "but I know not how 
long it will last. . . . New England seems to be the only 

i. Chaps, xvi, xvii. 


safe place/' x The purpose for which the orthodoxy had 
labored was as much attained as any human purpose 
ever can be in this world of imperfections, a purpose 
expressed by the Court in 1646 when, in that dangerous 
hour, it had turned to the Synod for a platform, asking 
that the Lord being thus acknowledged the Judge, Law- 
giver, and King of the colony, 

he may be graciously pleased still to save us, as hithertoo hee hath 
done, & glory may still dwell in or land, truth & peace may abide 
still in these churches & plantations, & or posterity may not so 
easily decline from ye good way. 3 

The magistrates and the elders conceived that they had 
done their duty as John Cotton defined it: "It is for us 
to doe all the good we can, and to leave nothing to those 
that shall come after us, but to walke in the righteous 
steps of their fore-Fathers/* 3 Probably nothing could 
have been told these gentlemen in those halcyon days 
which would have puzzled them more than that some of 
the most respectable of that posterity for whom they 
exhibited such concern, while acknowledging that pos- 
sibly the colony could not have survived had the ortho- 
doxy not imposed its "due form" of government so 
rigorously, would yet openly admire and venerate such 
spirits as Williams and Anne Hutchinson, or find some 
good even in Samuel Gorton. They would have been 
equally astonished to find "those that shall come after 
us" accounting it probably a misfortune that New 
England escaped the calamities which befell old Eng- 

1. Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., Series 5, vm, 209-210. 

2. Massachusetts Records , u, 156. 

3. Cotton, An Exposition upon the 'Thirteenth Chapter >f the Revelation, p. 77. 


land. But least of all could they have believed that 
perhaps the greatest mind to be born of all the ortho- 
doxy's numerous progeny, a lineal descendant of stal- 
wart Peter Bulkley of Concord, would survey their 
handiwork and denominate the era inaugurated by the 
Cambridge Platform not that of "ye good way/' but 
that of an "intellectual glacier." 



Adams, Charles Francis 

Antinomianism in Massachusetts Bay, 1892 
Three Episodes in Massachusetts History, 1892 

Adams, James Truslow 

The Founding of New England, 1921 

Ames, William 

The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, 1643 

Bailyn, Bernard 

The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, 1955 

Bradford, William 

History of Plymouth Plantation, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison, 

Burrage, Champlin 

Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research, 1912 

Costello, William T., SJ. 

The Scholastic Curriculum at Early Seventeenth-Century Cam- 
bridge, 1958 

Cotton, John 

The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven and Power thereof, 1644 
The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, 1645 
The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared, 1648 

Dexter, Henry Martyn 

Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, 1880 

Foster, Frank Hugh 

A Genetic History of New England Theology, 1907 

Haller, William 

The Rise of Puritanism, 1570-1643, 1938 

Hanbury, Benjamin 

Historical Memorials Relating to the Independents or Congrega- 
tionalists, from their Rise to the Restoration, 1839-1844 


Hooker, Thomas 

A Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline, 1648 

Hutchinson, Thomas 

The History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, edited by Law- 
rence S. Mayo, 1936 

Knappen, Marshall 

Tudor Puritanism, 1939 

Mather, Cotton 

Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702 (reprinted, Hartford, 1855) 

Mather, Richard 

An Apologie of the Churches in New-England for Church- 
Covenant, 1643 
Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discussed, 1643 

Miller, Perry 

The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, 1939, 1954 

The Neiu England Mind: from Colony to Province, 1953 

Roger Williams, 1953 

The American Puritans, 1956 

Errand into the Wilderness, 1956 

Miller, Perry, and Thomas H. Johnson 
The Puritans 

Morgan, Edmund S. 

The Puritan Family, 1944 

The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Wmthrop, 1958 

Morison, Samuel Eliot 

Builders of the Bay Colony, 1930 
The Founding of Harvard College, 1935 
Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, 1936 
The Puritan Pronaos, 1936, 1956 

Murdock, Kenneth B. 

Literature and Theology in Colonial Nciv England, 1949 

Notestein, Wallace 

The English People on the Eve of Colonization, 1954 


Norton, John 

The Answer (1648), translated by Douglas Horton, 1958 
The Orthodox Evangelist, 1654 

Ong, Walter J., S.J. 

Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, 1958 

Palfrey, John Gorham 

A Compendious History of New England, 1858-1890 

Schneider, Herbert W. 

The Puritan Mind, 1930 

Shepard, Thomas and John Allin 
A Defence of the Ansiver, 1648 

Simpson, Alan 

Puritanism in Old and New England, 1955 

Sly, John Fairfield 

Town Government in Massachusetts, 1620-1930, 1930 

Stearns, Raymond P. 

Congregationalism in the Dutch Netherlands, 1940 

Stokes, Anson Phelps 

Church and State in the United States, 1950 

Walker, Williston 

The Creeds and Platform's of Congregationalism, 1893 

Winslow, Ola 

Meetinghouse Hill, 1952 

Winthrop, John 

Journal, edited by James K. Hosmer, 1908 

Winthrop, Robert C. 

Life and Letters of John ffinthrop, 1869 

Woodhouse, A. S. P. 

Puritanism and Liberty, 1951 



NOTE. In the case of certain names that figure prominently throughout 
the book, such as Winthrop, Cotton, Ames, etc., only the more important 
references have been indicated. 

Act of Supremacy, 8-9 

Act of Uniformity, 8-9 

Adams, James Truslow, xii, xv 

Admonition to Parliament, The, 13, 
19,21,24, 52 

Advertisements, The, 20 

Ainsworth, Henry, 63, 68, 117, 173 

Allen,J. W.,39 

Ames, William, 76, 79, 82, 86, 89, 90, 
92, 96, 1 08, 109, no, in, 112, 115, 
116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123, 
125-126, 134, 155, 159, 165-166, 
169, 172, 175, 194, 206 

"Arminianism," 42-45 

Baillie, Robert, xiii, 135, 265, 270, 

271, 272, 278 
Bancroft, Richard, 27, 42 
Baptism, 56, 114, 119, 200 ff. 
Barrowe, Henry, 62, 63, 75 
Batchellor, Stephen, 115, 252-253 
Baxter, Richard, 74 
Baynes, Paul, 76, 78, 81, 108, 115, 

1 16, 1 17, 1 20, 121, 134 
Body of Liberties, The, 233, 239 
Boswell, Sir William, 106-107, 116 
Bradford, William, 128, 136, 297 
Bradshaw, William, 76, 78, 91, 95, 98, 

ii i, 121, 159 
Browne, Robert, 55, 57, 59, 60, 62, 

64, 173, 224 

Burgess, John, 68, 96, 98 
Burghley, Lord, 9, 19, 21 
Burrage, Champlin, xv 

Burroughs, Jeremiah, 106 
Burton, Henry, 266, 268, 270 

Calvin, John, 5, 7, 8, 15, 16, 31, 54, 

69, 172 
Cambridge Platform, The, 160, 177, 

181, 184, 185, 192, 193, 200, 205, 

210, 254, 256, 277, 310-311 

Canne, John, 59, 98 

Cartwright, Thomas, 12, 13, 14, 19, 

21, 69, 70, 71, 85, 120 

Charles I, 48, 49, 307 

Chidley, Katherine, 278 

Child, Dr. Robert, 298 -306 

Conant, Roger, 102, 137 

Consociation, see Synods 

Cotton, John, 79, 81, 98, 113, 117- 

119, 120, 121, 123, 124, 130, 134, 

135, 144, 146, 152, 154, i5s, 16, 
162, 165, 1 66, 169, 170, 177, 180, 
185, 1 88, 190, 193, 196, 197, 199, 

204, 2O9, 220, 225, 226, 227, 229, 

231, 240, 24!, 244, 247-248, 250- 

251, 258, 260, 262, 276, 282, 309, 

Covenant, Church, 169-170 
Covenant, Social, 224-225, 234-239 
Cromwell, Oliver, 48, 73, 272, 309 

Davenport, John, 112, 113-117, 119, 
124, 155, 156, 177, 196, 197, 209, 
240, 244-245 

Democracy, 171-172, 221 rT. 

Downing, Emanuel, 49 


Dudley, Thomas, 104, 135, 151, 188, 

213, 220, 231, 245 

Eaton, Nathaniel, 121 
Eliot, John, 120, 188 
Elizabeth, Queen, 8, 9, 10, 20, 38 
Endecott, John, 103, 104, 129, 130, 
i3 2 > 134, 213,218, 231, 286 

Forbes, John, 80, 108, no, 112, 115, 

Fuller, Dr. Samuel, 128-129, 133, 134 

Gardiner, Stephen, 8 

Goffe, Stephen, 114, 118 

Gooch,G. P., 3 1 

Goodwin, Thomas, 106, 113, 271, 277 

Gorges, Sir Ferdinando, 143, 216, 263 

Gorton, Samuel, 283-286, 302, 306 

Greenwood, John, 56 

Hall, Joseph, 41, 66 

Hampton Court Conference, 38 

Harvard, John, ill 

Higginson, Francis, 130-131, 137, 153 

Hildersham, Arthur, 130 

Hobart, Peter, 122, 287 ff., 296, 302 

Hooker, Richard, 28, 38, 42, 51, 68 

Hooker, Thomas, 107-111, 112, 113, 
114, 115, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121 
n. 5, 123, 124, 130, 151-152, 170, 
178, 180, 185, 188, 190, 192, 197, 
208, 259, 276 

Hooper, John, 17 

Humble Request, 'The, 138-139 

Hutchinson, Anne, 158-159, 163-165, 

Jacob, Henry, 42, 75, 76, 77, 81, 82, 
95,97, in, 116, 174, 175, 187,224, 
240, 254, 261 

James I, 10, 38, 40, 42, 77, 96 

Jewel, John, 11, 25 

Johnson, Edward, 161, 251 

Johnson, Francis, 75 

Johnson, Isaac, 104, 123, 125, 126 

Kittredge, George Lyman, xiv 
Knox, John, 17-18 

Lathrop, John, 113, 120 

Laud, William, 12, 28, 46, 74, 106, 


Lechford, Thomas, 207, 240, 251, 263 
Luther, Martin, 5-6, 16, 30 

Mcllwain, Charles Howard, 4 
Mainwaring, Roger, 46-47, 48 
Martin Marprelate, 71 
Mason, Francis, 40-41, 49 
Massachusetts Bay Company, 102 ff., 

122 ff., 143 ff., 213 
Mather, Cotton, 134, 197, 202-203 
Mather, Richard, 120, 148, 155, 162, 

166, 171, 184, 185, 189, 192, 203, 


Maverick, John, 122 
Morton, Thomas, 213 

Norton, John, 119, 155 
Nowell, Increase, 104, 130, 188 
Noyes, James, 122, 196-197, 277 
Nye, Philip, 106, 113, 125, 277 

Ordination, 88-90, 131, 152-154 

Paget, John, 79, 80, 82, 84, 107, 108, 
109, no, 112, 114, 117, 119 

Parker, Matthew, 20 

Parker, Robert, 76, 79, 81, 82, 108, 
no, 116, 117, 120, 155 

Parker, Thomas, 122, 277 

Peter, Hugh, 108, no, 112-113, 115, 
116, 119, 123-124, 126, 129, 142, 
163, 189, 266, 276, 281-282 

Phillips, George, 134, 135, 153, 204 

Phillips, John, 120 

Planters Plea, The, 140-142 

Ponet, John, 31-32 


Presbyterianism, 22, 36, 53, 73, 74,! 

85, 266 ff., 295, 299 
Prynne, William, 14 
Puritanism, 12-14, 21-23, 45, 67, 69- 

Pynchon, William, 104, 296 

Robinson, John, 56, 64, 65, 78, 82, 86, 
89, 96, 100 n. i, 117, 128, 171, 172, 

!74, 175 

Rogers, Ezekiel, 120 
Rogers, Nathaniel, 120 

Saltonstall, Richard, 223 
Saltonstall, Sir Richard, 104, 199, 280 
Shepard, Thomas, 99, 100, 119, 165, 

167, l8l, 185, 189, 197, 200, 201, 
203, 245, 246-247, 265, 282 

Sibthorpe, Robert, 46-47, 48 
Skelton, Samuel, 130-131, 153 
Stone, Samuel, 119, 186 
Stoughton, Israel, 230, 233 
Sutcliffe, Mathew, 39, 42 
Synod of 1637, tne > J ^4> 1 9 I > 2 5> 2 55 
Synod of 1643, the, 182, 277 
Synod of 1646-48, the, 205, 295, 297- 

Synods, theory of, 58, 77 ff., 109, 115, 

186 ff., 249-252 

Toleration, 36-38, i6off., 256 ff., 

270 ff., 308 
Travers, Walter, 14, 23, 35 

Troeltsch, Ernst, 15, 270 

Udall, John, 13, 22, 25 
Usher, Roland Green, 42, 47 

Vane, Sir Harry, 234, 235-236, 280 
Vassal, William, 297, 302 

Ward, Nathaniel, 120, 125, 232, 233, 

282, 286 

Wareham, John, 122, 133 
Weld, Thomas, 116, 119, 125, 154, 

168, 183, 188, 260, 261, 266, 276 
White, John, 102, 103, 104-105, 122, 

123, 127, 137, I 4 0, 220 

Whitgift, John, 12, 19, 26-27, 2 9> 43 
Williams, Roger, 98, 157-158, 177 

n. 3, 183, 184, 188, 190, 214-215, 

271, 272, 277-278, 284 
Wilson, John, 134, 135, 163, 164 
Winslow, Edward, 134, 136, 219, 297, 

*99, 33 > 3o6, 307 
Winthrop, John, 49, 104, 121 n. 5, 

123, 126, 134, 135, 138, 144, 145, 

146, 147, 149, 151, 164, 188, 212, 

213, 215, 2l8, 22O, 222, 224, 225, 
228, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234-235, 
2 36-239, 2 4 1, 2 4 2, 245, 2 4 8, 249, 
26l, 277, 287, 288, 289-294, 301, 

3 2 > 304 
Wychf, John, 54 

Zwingli, 30 


BP 1 Schweitzer An Anthology $1.60 

BP 2 Guthrie The Greeks and Their Gods $1.75 

BP 9 Buber Between Man and Man $1.25 

BP 22 Bainton Reformation of the Sixteenth Century $1.60 

BP 28 Kierkegaard Attack Upon "Christendom" $1.60 

BP 42 Be<van Symbolism and Belief $1.95 

BP 49 Harnack Outlines of the History of Dogma $1.95 

BP 56 Schiveitzer Psychiatric Study of Jesus $ .95 

BP 61 Troeltsch Protestantism and Progress $1.45 

BP 64 Buber Paths in Utopia $1.50 

BP 66 Caster Oldest Stories in the World $1.95 

BP71 So/im Outlines of Church History $1.95 

BP 80 Silver A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel $1.75 

BP 81 Jones Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Century $1.95 



By Perry Miller 

This is the first systematic description of the New England 
mind from the beginnings of colonial life to the achievement of 
something like unity in the middle of the 17th century. The keystone 
of the whole colonial structure is seen in the thought of the age. 
Here is a brilliant introduction to American philosophy, theology, 
literature, and history. 

"Dr. Miller is to be commended for the care with which he has 
related American events to their European background ... a very 
good study of a topic much in need of treatment." 

International Journal of Ethics 

"An extraordinarily thorough, solid, and, at the same time, 
stimulating religious and political history of the first two decades 
of New England Puritanism . . . Dr. Miller has produced a masterly 
exposition, lacking neither in scope nor in detail, of the New England 
Way from its genesis in England to its consummation in the Cam- 
bridge Platform of 1648 ... he has furnished an indispensable 
groundwork for further debate among students of American thought/* 

Journal of Philosophy 

Perry Miller has been connected with the Harvard University 
faculty since 1931 and became professor of American literature in 
1946. He is also the author of The New England Mind, The Puritans, 
and several biographies of colonial personalities. 

BEACON PRESS Beacon Hill Boston 

o: !